At that time, from the Iron-Mountain, many ghost kings and sons of the heavens came to the Trayastrimsa Heaven where Buddha taught the Dharma. Those who came included Evil Poison Ghost King, Evil Doing Ghost King, Dispute Ghost King, White Tiger Ghost King, Blood Tiger Ghost King, Red Tiger Contagious Ghost King, Disaster Ghost King, Flying Body Ghost King, Lightning Flash Ghost King, Wolf Teeth Ghost King, Thousand Eyes Ghost King, Eating Beast Ghost King, Rock-Carrying Ghost King, Exhaustion Ghost King, Calamity Ghost King, Food Ghost King, Wealth Ghost King, Domestic Animal Ghost King, Fowl Ghost King, Beast Ghost King, Mountain Spirit Ghost King, Birth Ghost King, Life Ghost King, Disease Ghost King, Danger Ghost King, Three Eyes Ghost King, Four Eyes Ghost King, Five Eyes Ghost King, the Fire Spirit King, The Great Fire Ghost King, the Dharma Protector King, the Great Dharma Protector King and so on. There were also thousands of major and minor ghost kings who live in all the worlds and rule over specific areas.
These ghost kings and sons of heavens, by the divine power of Buddha and Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, Mahasattva, all came to the Buddha’s assembly in Trayastrimsa. They reverently stood beside the Bodhisattva.
At that time, Yama, Son of Heaven, knelt down, placed his hands together and asked, “World Honored One, inheriting the divine power of Buddha and Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, Mahasattva, and having good merits, we, sons of heavens and all ghost kings, join this great assembly in the Trayastrimsa. Now, we have a small doubt we would like to express. May Buddha be merciful and explain it to us.”
Buddha told Yama, Son of Heaven, “Whatever you ask, I shall explain it to you.”
At that time, Yama, Son of Heaven looked at Buddha with respect, turned his head towards Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and said, “World Honored One, as we have observed, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has used hundreds and thousands of convenient way to help and cultivate the suffering offenders of the six levels. He never feels tired. This great Bodhisattva has such inconceivable divine power. But these beings fall into evil soon after they are relieved from their criminal retributions. World Honored One, since this Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has such unimaginable divine power, why do not all beings follow the Dharma and be relieved from pain forever? Will World Honored One please explain this to us.”
The Buddha told Yama, Son of Heaven, “Those beings of the worlds are hard-minded. It is difficult to subdue them. This Great Bodhisattva has saved these beings for a long, long time. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha uses every possible way to point out their own basic karma relationship and make them realize the things which they did in their former lives. However, all beings have a pattern of bad habits, and they quickly fall into the same pattern again. This Bodhisattva has taken many aeons to help and save them.
For example, if someone accidentally walks onto a dangerous road and gets lost among the many devils, tigers, wolves, lions, snakes and scorpions on this road, this person will be attacked immediately. If this person happens to meet and heed the advice of a wise and knowledgeable person, then he could avoid those evil beasts. The person does not know how dangerous this situation is until he hears the wise and knowledgeable person’s advice. Soon after, the person wants to get out of that situation. This wise person leads him away and protects him from those evils, and when he arrives to a safe place, he is peaceful and happy.
Then, this wise person tells him, ‘Do not walk this road from now on. Those who walk this road will live a difficult and dangerous life.’
The person who was once lost appreciates him very much. Before leaving, the wise person says, ‘If you see your friends, relatives or any person walk by, whether they are male or female, you should let them know that this way is full of evil. Anyone entering those road will have their lives threatened. Do not allow any beings to walk this way.’
In this way, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha helps and cultivates the criminal beings by his benevolent and compassionate heart. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha helps them be reborn as human beings or heavenly beings and thus obtain peace and happiness. Because they know the sufferings of retribution, when they are released they will be reluctant to go through the pain of evil again. That person will never walk that dangerous way again since he was saved by the wise person. Beside this, he also persuades others not to walk along this dangerous road. And since he has been there before, he will certainly not walk that way again.
If he is still confused and makes the same mistake, and does not realize that he himself has been on this dangerous road before, he will lose his life. This is the same as falling into evil. Although Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha has used all kinds of useful ways to release them and allow them to be reborn into heaven or as a human being, those beings will still fall into evil again. If he has heavy karma, he will stay in hell with no definite time to be released from suffering.”
At that time, Evil Poison Ghost King reverently placed his hands together and said, “World Honored One, we, the many ghost kings in the worlds have different jobs, some of us advantageous and help people, some of us hurt people. Our karmic retribution causes us and our retinues to travel throughout all the worlds and do more evil than good. While we are passing through a house, a town, a castle, a village or a farm, if we see any man or woman do a tiny benefaction, hang a pennant or streamers of silk before a Buddha’s image, prepare a little incense of flowers to offer the Buddha or Bodhisattva, or recite even just one sentence or word of the sutras, all of us will salute this person as we do to Buddhas past, present and in the future. We will also order all powerful ghosts and gods of the lands to protect this person and never let any evil thing, disease or bad luck draw near to this person’s house, not to mention to themselves.”
The Buddha praised the ghost king, “Very good, very good. All of you and Yama also can support and protect these good men and women. I will ask Brahma King and Shakra to protect you as well.”
After this, another ghost king named Life Master said to Buddha, “World Honored One, in accordance with their retributions, I am in charge of humans’ lives. Their lives and deaths are governed by me. Fundamentally, I am willing to help them. But, because they do not realize my true heart, they have little happiness and peace when either bearing children or dying.
Why? If people could offer some benefactions to increase the merits of their own family when they are going to have either a son or a daughter, the God of Land would be happy to protect the mothers and children to obtain happiness and peace. Even their relatives could obtain merits, too. On the other hand, they should not kill any creature for offering as food to a woman who just given birth. Neither gather relatives together to eat meat, drink wine, sing songs and dance in celebration of the new born baby. This behavior will make the mother and baby lose peace and happiness.
Why? Because uncounted evil ghosts and monsters would like to eat the offensive-smelling blood at childbirth. I have already ordered the God of Land to protect the mother and child and make them peaceful and happy and without any disaster. These people should offer more benefactions to thank this god for the happiness and peace they obtain. However, not only do they show little gratitude but they also kill creatures and gather relatives for celebration. Therefore, their retribution is caused by themselves. They deserve the damage. The mother and child will also suffer.
Furthermore, throughout the worlds, I will help the people who are about to die, regardless of whether they are good or evil, not to fall further into evil. My power to help them is increased when they have done good deeds. When benevolent persons are going to die, hundreds or thousands of evil spirits will turn into the same form as their parents or relatives, and encourage them to be a part of their evil horde. It will be even more difficult for a person who has done many evil deeds to get away from evil.
World-Honored One, when men or women in all the worlds are going to die, they are incapable of clear thinking, they cannot tell good from bad, their eyes are unable to see and their ears are unable to hear. If their relatives make offerings to Buddha for them, recite the sutra and recite Buddhas’ or Bodhisattvas’ names, these good deeds will help the dead people turn away from evil and all the devils and ghosts will retreat.
World Honored One, if anyone who is about to die hears a Buddha’s name or Bodhisattva’s name or one sentence from a Mahayana sutra, these people can be relieved from the Five Endless Offenses. As for the minor bad karma which could basically lead them into evil, this can be relieved immediately.”
Buddha told Life Master Ghost King, “You have great benevolence to make such a great vow to protect all beings, both alive and dead. In future generations if anyone, male or female, faces life and death, do not forget the vow you have made, and be sure to release all beings from hardship and allow them to observe happiness and peace.”
The ghost king replied to Buddha, “Please do not be concerned. I shall do my best to protect all beings in all the worlds so that they will have happiness both at the time of birth and at the time of death. I hope they will believe my word so they will be released, receive happiness, and earn numerous merits.”
At that time, Buddha told Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, “This Life Master King has already been a great ghost king for thousands of generations. Supporting and protecting all those beings between life and death is the benevolent merciful power of his vow. He is now incarnated as a ghost king, but in reality he is not a ghost. One hundred and seventy aeons from now, in an aeon named Tranquility, he will be a Buddha named No Appearance Thus Come One. His kalpa will be named Happiness. The world he lives in will be called Pure Dwelling and his age will be uncountable. Ksitigarbha, everything about this great ghost king is unimaginable. The people he has saved, is saving and will save in all the worlds and in heavens are innumerable.”
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.