At that time, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, Mahasattva, said to Buddha, “World Honored One, I have observed sins of thought or action from everyone in all the worlds. Even though they do a few good deeds their kind hearts soon regress. If they fall into a bad circumstance, their evil thoughts will continue. It is as if these people are walking in mud carrying a heavy stone on their shoulders. The longer they walk, the harder they step. Their feet sink in mud and they cannot get themselves out. If they meet a knowledgeable person who can carry some or all the stones for them, this knowledgeable person has great power to help and persuade them not to go any further. After they arrive at a smooth plain, the knowledgeable one soon teaches them how to examine themselves and not to go through the mud again.
World Honored One, the minor offenses accumulate into major ones. Since most of these people have such bad habits, in order to help them to be reborn into a better life, their parents or relatives should make offerings or oblations for them after they pass away. They can hang pennants, light oil lamps or make statues of Buddha or Bodhisattva. They can also recite the sutras or the names of the Buddha and Bodhisattva. They should make sure that they keep every single word deep in their minds. Though these beings have fallen into evil karma, their criminal offenses can be eliminated by oblations and offerings in their name by their family or relatives.
If their family or relatives can do many good deeds for the dead during the first seven days, the dead can avoid evil forever and be reborn in heaven or as a human and enjoy wonderful happiness. In addition, the people who promote benefits for the dead can also obtain endless merits.”
Thus, now, in front of the Buddha, World Honored One, gods, dragons and all others, both human and non-human, I urge all beings in all worlds not to offer sacrifices to the spirits of the deceased persons by killing creatures or calling on ghosts or spirits.
Why? Because offering sacrifices by killing has not the slightest merit for the deceased persons at all. On the contrary, it will increase their burden, because their relatives make more offenses for the deceased. The deceased person’s spirit has to defend itself against the spirits of the sacrificed creatures. This might risk the rebirth of that person in heaven or the human world. Not to mention the deceased who, while he was alive had few merits, and thus according to his karma, has to suffer pains in the evil level. How could his relatives increase his karma?”
For example, it’s like a person who has eaten nothing for three days and is carrying baggage which weighs one hundred kilograms. Unexpectedly, his neighbor asks him to bring some extra things for him. Now his burden is heavier than before.
World Honored One, I have observed that as long as beings in all the worlds do good deeds for Buddhadharma, no matter as small as a hair, a drop of water, a grain of sand or a speck of dust, they will obtain all merits themselves.”
While these words were being spoken, there was an elder named Great Eloquence who has advocated Dharma since long ago, cultivates all beings from the Ten Directions, and is always incarnated as an elder. He placed both hands together with reverence, then asked Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, “Mahasattva, after those beings in all the worlds have died and their relatives do good deeds for them, offer vegetarian foods or plant all kinds of good things, can the deceased obtain merits and be released from pain and suffering?”
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha answered, “Now, by Buddha’s power, I will explain this in general. Elder, if those beings today or in the future hear a name of Buddha or a Bodhisattva on the day they die, no matter whether they are guilty or not, they can be released from suffering. If anyone does many evil deeds while alive and his or her relatives do good deeds for them after their death, the deceased will receive a seventh part of the relative’s merit. The remaining merits belong to his or her relatives. If good people today and in future can promote goodness by themselves, they can obtain every merit.
After death the Great Ghost of Impermanence will take the spirit of the deceased away without warning. At that time, nobody knows whether the spirit’s future is good or bad. During the first forty-nine days after death, the deceased does not hear anything. At that time, he will be judged in a court arguing his karmic retribution. He will not be reborn until the trial. Before the trial in hell, the deceased has already felt distress, not to speak of suffering in the evil level. The deceased longs for help from his children and relatives during these forty-nine days. After forty-nine days, he will follow his own karmic retributions and suffer. These kinds of criminal persons usually cannot be released for hundreds or thousands of years. If the being has ever committed one of Five Endless Offenses, he or she will fall into Endless Hell and suffer all kinds of pain for an indefinite time.”
“Moreover, elder, if beings with such karma die, the relatives can make offerings. Their relatives should prepare or eat vegetarian food and not throw rice-water or vegetables leaves on the ground. They should not even eat before offering it to Buddha and the monks. If they waste the food, eat before offering it or are too lazy to learn about Dharma, the deceased will obtain no merits at all. If their relatives are diligent and are reverently devoted to Buddha and the Sangha, the deceased will receive a seventh part of the merit, Therefore, elder, if those beings in all the worlds can honestly and reverently offer vegetarian food to the Three Treasures after their parents or relatives die, both the living and the dead can obtain all the merits.”
While Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha spoke these words, millions of ghosts and gods in Trayastrimsa Heaven Palace from all the world made endless requests for helping the suffering. And the elder Great Eloquence bowed 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.