At that time, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, Mahasattva, said to Buddha, “World Honored One, relying upon your divine power, I am able to transform myself into many forms to save all beings in billions of worlds from their karmic retribution. If it were not for your benevolent power, I would not be able to transform myself. Now I am again bidden by Buddha to relieve those beings in the six levels. Yes, World Honored One, please do not be concerned.”
At that time, Buddha Sakyamuni told Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, “Those beings who have not been liberated are very unstable. Bad habits cause karma, good habits caused good fruits, and whether habits are good or bad, beings are all influenced by environment. They transmigrate within the five levels like a wheel turning without stopping. They have been through many hardships for aeons. Like a fish swimming into a net and thinking that it is in a flowing stream, when the fish breaks out from the net, it becomes trapped again. Such beings are what I am always anxious about. But now, you are going to accomplish your vow to help the criminal people. So I have no need for concern.”
When Buddha spoke these words in the meeting, a Bodhisattva, Mahasattva, name Self-Existent King asked, “World Honored One, what vow makes the Buddha praise Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha so much? Please World Honored One tell us.”
Buddha answered Bodhisattva Self-Existent King, “Listen, listen, and think of what I am about to say. Many aeons ago, there was a Buddha name ‘All-Knowledge-Accomplished One’. This Buddha is worshipped by heavenly beings and people. He has wisdom and is perfect in clarity and conduct. He can be released from life and death. He is omniscient and acts as an advocate and meditator. He is the highest sage and the greatest instructor of heaven and people. That is why this Buddha is respected by heavens and people. The lifespan this Buddha is sixty thousand aeons. He was a king of a small country before he became a monk. While he was a king, he had a good friend who was also a king of a neighbouring country. They both cultivated themselves by doing ten good deeds to help others. The citizens of their countries used to commit many evil acts, so the two kings decided to set up possible ways to help people to give up evil and return to virtue. One king made a vow that he may soon become a Buddha to help all beings. The other king made a different vow, saying that he would never becomes Buddha unless all beings suffering from their criminal acts were saved and gained peace and happiness, attained Bodhi.”
Buddha Sakyamuni told Bodhisattva Self-Existent King, “The king who wished to become a Buddha first is Buddha All-Knowledge Accomplished. The other king who wished to help people but refused to become a Buddha first is the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.”
“Moreover, long and infinite aeons ago, Buddha Pure-Lotus-Eyes came into the world. This Buddha’s lifespan is forty aeons. The immortal Buddha, Pure-Lotus-Eyes existed during the Dharma-Image Age – at the time when images were used for worship. There was an arhan who instructed many people little by little with his fortunate merits. This arhan met a woman, Bright Eyes, who prepared sacrificial offerings for him.
The arhan asked her what she wanted.
Bright Eyes answered, “I have prayed and given offerings in memory of my mother since the day she died. I wish to know where my mother is now.”
The arhan felt compassion for Bright Eyes. He meditated and saw that her mother had fallen into an evil level and had suffered great pain.
The arhan asked Bright Eyes, “What did your mother do when she was alive? She is now suffering in hell.”
Bright Eyes answered, “My mother loved eating fish, especially baby fish. She fried or boiled thousands of baby fish, willfully, as she pleased. Please nobel one be merciful and help my mother.”
The arhan felt compassion for her and advised Bright Eyes, “Reverently recite the name of Buddha Pure-Lotus-Eyes and draw an image of him to benefit all those beings either living or dead.”
So Bright Eyes sold all her favorite things as soon as she heard the arhan’s instructions. Then she asked a painter to draw the Buddha’s portrait. She gave offerings in sacrifice, and with a reverent heart sorrowfully wept as she worshiped the Buddha. Unexpectedly one night, as if in a dream, she saw a Buddha who was as tall as Mount Sumeru, emitting bright and shining light.
This Buddha told Bright Eyes, “Your mother will be soon reborn in your house. She will be able to speak soon after she feels hunger and cold.”
After some time, a maidservant of Bright Eyes family bore a baby. This baby could speak three days after her birth. Bowing her head and crying, she told Bright Eyes, “One has to suffer the consequences and retributions of one’s own doing throughout life and death. I was your mother. I stayed in hell for a long time. Since we parted, I have fallen into hell several times. Because of you, I am born here as a servant. But I will die early; I will only live until I am thirteen years old. After I die, I will fall into an evil level again. Do you have any way to relieve me from these sufferings?”
After listening to the words of the servant’s baby, Bright Eyes realized this baby was her mother. She asked her sorrowfully, and with tears, “When you were my mother, do you know what you did to make you fall into an evil level?”
The baby answered, “I am suffering this retribution due to the karma of killing and slandering. If it were not for you saving me from suffering, I would not be released from such karma.”
Bright Eyes asked about the situation in hell and the baby answered, “It was so horrible that I dare not remind myself of it again. And the sufferings there cannot be stated even in thousands of years.”
Bright Eyes wept and wailed after listening to the baby’s statement. She swore into empty space, “May my mother leave hell forever and not fall into evil again after her thirteen years on earth. Please all Buddhas from the Ten Directions have mercy upon me; listen to my solemn pledge for my mother. If my mother can leave the three evil levels forever, and does not take any humble position or ever be born as woman, I vow, in front of Buddha Pure-Lotus-Eyes that from now on I will save and work towards cultivating all beings in all worlds, hells and evil levels out of suffering. I do not want to become a Buddha until all of them become Buddhas.”
Bright Eyes then clearly heard Buddha Pure-Lotus- Eyes who told her, “Bright Eyes, you have great benevolent and compassion to make such a great vow for your mother. After your mother finishes thirteen years’ retribution, she will be born into Brahmin class for one hundred years. In her next life, she will again be born into the Land of No Concern for uncountable aeons. Then, she will become a Buddha to help to cross over as many human and heavenly beings as there are sands in the Ganges.”
Buddha told Bodhisattva Self-Existent King, “The arhan who helped Bright Eyes at that time is now the Bodhisattva Inexhaustible-Intention. The mother of Bright Eyes is the Bodhisattva Liberation. And Bright Eyes herself is now the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Throughout many aeons, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has crossed over all beings by his benevolence and compassion. He has made as many vows to rescue living beings as there are grains of sand in the Ganges.”
“In the future, if any man or woman does not do good deeds, does bad deeds, does not believe in cause and effect, is licentious, uses false and reckless speech, who quarrels a lot, or slander the Mahayana, such people who create this karma must certainly fall into the three evil levels after they die. However, if one meets a wise person who even in the time to take to snap the fingers, and who guides him to take refuge in Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, he will be pardoned for the retributions in the three evil levels.”
“If he can respect with all his heart, gaze at, worship and praise, offer fragrant flowers, clothing, food and various kinds of jewellery and valuables to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha he will enjoy the most wonderful happiness and welfare in heavens for boundless time in the future.”
“Even if his welfare in the heavens has come to an end, he can be born as an emperor for hundreds of thousands of aeons. And he can also remember what happened in his previous life. Bodhisattva Self-Existent King, Ksitigarbha has such a great divine power that will benefit all beings. You, Bodhisattva, keep the sutra in mind and proclaim it extensively.”
Bodhisattva Self-Existent King answered Buddha, “World Honored One, please do not be concerned. Billions of Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas here will certainly proclaim this sutra around the worlds, and with Buddha’s divine power, help all beings.”
Bodhisattva Self-Existent King placed both his hands together reverently, bowed and knelt in worship, and withdrew after finishing his statements.
At that time, the Four Heavenly Kings from the east, west, south and north rose from their own seats, placed both hands together respectfully and asked Buddha, “World Honored One, a long time ago Bodhisattva Kishigarbha made a great vow. Why are still many who have not crossed over? Now, he again makes another vow. Please, World Honored One, explain it to us.”
Buddha told the four kings, “Excellent, excellent. Now, for your benefit and for the advantage of all beings from heavens and worlds now and in the future, I am going to explain how Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha benevolently helps all beings suffering from their crimes in both life and death in the Saha World, and all the possible ways he uses.”
The Four Heavenly Kings said, “Yes, World Honored One, we would like to know.”
Buddha told the Four Heavenly Kings, “Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has helped and released all those beings from long time past to now, but he still has not completed his great vow. He has great benevolence and compassion for the suffering beings of this world. Because he observes that the causes of the beings’ karma and retribution are like grass that creep and spread fast, he again takes another strong vow. Therefore, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha shows billions of convenient ways to help and cultivate all beings in the Saha World.”
“Bodhisattva Kishigarbha persuades those who kill any creature not to kill, otherwise they will die young. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades those who steal things or rob people not to steal or rob, otherwise they will be poor and receive a hard lot. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades those licentious people to give up lustful behavior, otherwise they will be born as birds in future lives. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades those people who have abusive tongues not to speak bad language, otherwise their own relatives will fight with one another. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades those who are fond of slandering others not to libel anyone, otherwise in their future lives they will become mutes or their mouths will ulcerate.”
“Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people with hateful hearts not to hate or be angry with anybody, otherwise in their future lives they will be ugly and crippled. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades mean people to be generous, otherwise their wishes will never be fulfilled. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuaded those people who drink and eat without limitation to control themselves, otherwise they will suffer pain from hunger and thirst and throat diseases. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades those who go hunting willfully to stop hunting, otherwise they will die in terror. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades those who are mean to their own parents to show filial piety or devotion to them, otherwise they will die in natural disasters.”
“Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades those who set fires on mountains, forest or woods never to do that again, otherwise they will die in insanity and confusion. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades step-parents not to torture their step-children, otherwise in their future lives they will be lashed. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people not to catch fish and birds, otherwise they will lose their own children. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people not to slander the Three Treasures, otherwise they will become deaf, blind or mute in their future lives. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people not to disrespect the Dharma, otherwise they will fall into evil levels forever.”
“Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people not to destroy anything in the temple, otherwise they will transmigrate among the hells for an endless time. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people not to insult or falsely accuse monks or nuns, otherwise they will be animals forever in their future lives. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades monks or nuns not to break the Sangha’s rules, otherwise in their future lives they will be animals and they will suffer hungry retribution. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people not to ruin objects without any reason or use anything which does not belong to them without permission, otherwise they will never obtain what they want.”
“Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people not to be proud, otherwise they will be born in low positions and enslaved by others. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people not to stir up or incite trouble between people, otherwise they will have no tongue or hundreds of tongues as their retribution. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha persuades people not to argue irrationally or disobey the right way, otherwise they will be born in a barbarous frontier.”
“The retributions that I have described in general are what those beings of the worlds cause by their own behaviour, language and consciousness. Because of their different karma, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha uses many kinds of convenient ways to help and cultivate them. After those beings have finished such retributions, they still fall into hell and there will be no way out for aeons. Therefore, you should protect these living beings and their lands. Do not allow those beings who are confused by their own karma to create more karma.”
After listening to Buddha’s exhortations, the Four Heavenly Kings sighed, and with tears in their eyes, placed their hands together, and withdrew.
May the merits and virtues accrued from this work adorn the Buddha’s Pure Land, repay the Four Kindness above and relieve the sufferings of those in the Three Realms below. May those who see, hear and read this sutra bring forth the Bodhi mind and live the teachings for the rest of this life, then be born together in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.