Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Chapter Eight: King Yama’s Assembly’s Praises (Excerpt)
[Great Ghost King Master (Of) Lives to (Śākyamuni) Buddha said]: Furthermore, [in] Jambudvīpa, [of] people approaching [the] end [of] life, disregarding [the] good [or] evil, I desire [to] enable these people [at] life’s end, [to] not fall [into] evil paths.
Note 1: The great Ghost King Master Of Lives functions as a great Bodhisattva, not unlike Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva, who does his best to ensure all to avoid falling into the three lower realms. For more on the identity of the Ghost King, see Note 10 below.
What more [of those with] self-cultivation [of] good roots, [which will] increase [with] my power thus.
Note 2: He also nurtures the spiritual growth of those who already cultivate good roots.
These people whom [in] Jambudvīpa practised good, when approaching [the] end [of] life, likewise [might] have hundreds [of] thousands [of] evil paths’ ghosts [and] gods, perhaps transforming as [their] Fathers [and] Mothers, and even all family members, [to] ‘guide [and] receive’ [these] deceased persons, enabling [them to] fall [into] evil paths.
Note 3: Even those who have done some good might still have past negative karma manifesting, thus having many karmic creditors approach when dying. They might read their minds to manifest as the beloved attached to, for tricking them to fall into the lower realms when followed, by conditioning them to give rise to great delusional greed or (fearful) hatred when approached, leading to rebirth in a corresponding realm – as hell-beings, hungry ghosts (or wandering spirits) or animals. Those with mindfulness of Buddha once dying will avoid all these possible disturbances in the first place.
What more [of] those [who] originally created evil.
Note 4: Those who have done much evil are likely to have more of these karmic creditors.
World-Honoured [One], such Jambudvīpa men [and] women, when approaching [the] end [of] life, [with] consciousness confused [and] obscured, [if] unable [to] differentiate good [from] evil, even with eyes [and] ears further without sight [and] hearing, all their family members, should then set up great offerings, in turn reading [the] honoured sūtras, recite Buddhas’ [or] Bodhisattvas’ names.
Note 5: When dying, due to pain, discomfort and unfamiliarity with the dying process, coupled with lack of guidance for proper Dharma practice, such as mindfulness of Buddha, it is natural for many to be confused with what seen and heard, especially if karmic creditors have manifested to disturb. With negative karma bearing fruit, usual seeing and hearing might be distorted and obscured too.
Note 6: In these cases, whether the dying is properly conscious or not, confused or not, family members should make offerings to the Triple Gem on their behalf, recite sūtras and practise support-chanting with at least one Buddha’s name, such as that of Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛: Amitābha Buddha), to create merits for dedicating to them, protecting them, and enabling them to have calmness and clarity of mind – ideally connecting them to the Buddha directly with Faith, Aspiration and similar Practice of (verbal or silent) recitation, to be guided and received to his Pure Land. Mindfulness of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva has the same effect, according to the Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of] Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva (Dùnhuáng Treasury Version).《佛说地藏菩萨经》(炖煌藏本)
Such good conditions, [are] able [to] enable [the] deceased [to] depart [from] all evil paths, [and] all demonic ghosts [and] gods [to] all retreat [and] disperse.
Note 7: With the above in Note 6 done, not only will the dying and deceased (but yet to be reborn) escape from the lower realms, all karmic creditors will also depart. With adequate guidance and merits offered to all via mindfulness of Buddha and received accordingly, the dying and karmic creditors can both be reborn in Pure Land together.
World-Honoured [One], all sentient beings, when approaching [the] end [of their] lives, if attaining hearing [of] one Buddha’s name, one Bodhisattva’s name, or [the] Great Vehicle’s sūtras, [of] one line [or] one verse, I see [that] such kinds [of] people, [will] eradicate [the] five uninterrupted transgressions of killing [and] harming, [and] very minor evil karmas, that together [would had led to] fall [into] evil realms, [to be] immediately liberated.
Note 8: Of the above listed practices, focusing on offering of guidance followed by continual support-chanting with one Buddha’s name is the easiest – for the ideal goal of reaching Pure Land – which surpasses mere avoiding of lower realms. This should be done unless there are other relevant but equally effective practices preferred by the dying or deceased.
Note 9: The line ‘eradicate [the] five uninterrupted transgressions of killing [and] harming’ (除五无间杀害之罪) is understood by some to be ‘except [those with the] five uninterrupted transgressions of killing [and] harming’. It can be understood as ‘eradicate’ if there is truly sincere repentance, followed by the practice(s) listed. It can be understood as ‘except’ if this is amiss. Eradication is possible as in the Contemplation Sūtra《观经》, the last grade of birth is of those with the Five Heinous Transgressions (of killing Father, Mother, Arhat, injuring Buddha and/or breaking the Saṅgha), who are nevertheless able to reach Pure Land with sincere mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name with the Three Provisions.
Note 10: In the same chapter, the Buddha taught the following on the identity of the Ghost King, who is a great Bodhisattva destined to be a Buddha –
This great Ghost King, that [named] Master Of Lives, already [for] hundreds [of] thousands [of] lives, manifested [as a] great ghost king, within [the cycles of] births [and] deaths, supporting sentient beings. This great being [with the] vow [of] loving-kindness [and] compassion thus, [as a Bodhisattva Mahāsattva], manifests [a] great ghost’s body, [but] truly [is] not [a] ghost. However, later passing one hundred [and] seventy kalpas, [he] will attain accomplishment [of] Buddhahood, named Formless Thus Come [One, whose] kalpa [is] named Peace [And] Bliss, [and] world [is] named Pure Abiding. That Buddha’s lifespan [will be of] incalculable kalpas.
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an (not in book)
Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Niànfó Teachings
Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva’s Link With Āmítuófó
Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Chapter On Recitation Of Buddhas’ Names
Which Sūtra Should I Chant For The Deceased?