Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Chapter Four: Jambudvīpa’s Sentient Beings’ Karmic Connections (Excerpt)
[Śākyamuni Buddha]: ‘Again, in past immeasurable asaṃkhyeya kalpas [ago, there] was [a] Buddha [who] arose [in the] world, named Pure Lotus Flower Eyes Thus Come [One]. That Buddha’s lifespan [was] forty kalpas. Within [the] Dharma Resemblance [Age, there] was an Arhat, [with] blessings delivering sentient beings. Due [to him] arriving [to] teach [and] transform, [he] met a woman, [whose] name [was] Bright Eyes, [who] arranged food [to] make offerings.
[Note 1: The Arhat delivered sentient beings by offering blessings and wisdom (福慧) to them, while letting them create blessings by making offerings to him.]
[The] Arhat asked her, “What [do you] desire [and] wish [for]?”
Bright Eyes replied, “I, with [my] mother’s day of death, [with the] provision [of] blessings [made offerings, for] saving [her]. Yet [to] know [is that] my mother’s birthplace [is in] which realm.”
[Note 2: As she already knew her mother had great evil karma (恶业), she created blessings to alleviate her suffering in her next life.]
[The] Arhat, sympathising [with] her, for [her] entered concentration [to] contemplate, [and] saw [that the] woman Bright Eyes’ mother [had] fallen in [an] evil realm, [to] receive extremely great suffering. [The] Arhat asked Bright Eyes, saying, “Your mother when living, created [and] practised what karma? [She is] now in [an] evil realm, receiving extremely great suffering.”
Bright Eyes replied, ‘My mother [had] that habit, [of] only [being] fond [of] eating those belonging [to] fish [and] soft-shelled turtles. That eating [of] fish [and] soft-shelled turtles [was with] much eating [of] their eggs, perhaps [with] frying or boiling, indulging [in] eating [them]. Calculating those lives’ numbers, [they are by] ten million repeatedly multiplied. [May the] Honoured One [with] compassion sympathise. How [should I with] pity save [her]?”
[Note 3: With greed and perhaps much hatred too, her mother had created incalculable great evil karma by killing many sentient beings great and small.]
[The] Arhat, sympathising [with] her, for [her] created [a] skilful means, encouraging Bright Eyes, [by] saying, “You can, [with] sincerity [and] single-mindedness, [be] mindful [of] Pure Lotus Flower Eyes Thus Come [One], simultaneously sculpting [and] painting [his] form’s image, [for the] living [and] deceased [to] obtain rewards.”
[Note 4: The primary practice is wholehearted mindfulness of the Buddha’s name (持名念佛) and/or form (观像念佛) in her time, with which the Buddha can be connected to for advice, beyond the question of the whereabouts of the deceased. As it was already in the Dharma Resemblance Age (像法时期), the Buddha was not physically present to be directly consulted in person then.]
Bright Eyes, hearing [this] already, immediately gave up those loved, sought [to have] painting [of the] Buddha’s image, and made offerings [to] it. Again [with the] reverent mind, grievously weeping, looking up [and] prostrating. Suddenly, in [the] night later, [she] dreamt [and] saw [the] Buddha’s body, [whose] golden form glittered like Mount Sumeru. Emitting great bright light, [he] then told Bright Eyes, “Your mother, not long [later], will [be] born [in] your family. Just [when] feeling hunger [and] cold, [he] will immediately speak.”
Later, within [her] family, [a] servant gave birth [to] a son. Yet [to be] fully three days, then thus speaking, prostrating [and] grievously weeping, [he] told Bright Eyes, ‘Births’ [and] deaths’ karmic conditions, [are with the] fruits [of] retribution personally received. I am your mother, [who was for] long [in a] place wrapped [in] darkness, since departure [till] you came, [I] repeatedly fell [into] great hells. Receiving your blessings’ power, then attaining receiving [of] birth [here]. As [a] lowly person, also again [with a] short life, [after a] lifespan [with the] age [of] thirteen, [I will] again fall [into a] evil path. What plan [do] you have, [to] enable me [to be] liberated, [to] avoid [this]?’
[Note 5: This is proof that meritorious virtues (功德) created for the deceased can alleviate their suffering and expedite better rebirths.]
Bright Eyes, hearing [this] said, knew [that he was her] mother without doubt. Choking [and] sobbing, grievously wailing, [she] then said [to the] servant’s son, “Since [you] are my mother, [you] should know [your] original transgressions, [having] created what actions’ karmas, [to] fall in [an] evil path.”
[The] servant’s son replied, “With killing [and] harming, slandering [and] scolding, [these] two karmas, [I] received retribution. If not receiving [your] blessings, saving [me from] my difficulties, with these karmas thus, [I] should not [be] liberated.”
Bright Eyes asked, ‘[Of] hell’s transgressive retribution, what [are] those matters?”
[The] servant’s son replied, “Of matters [on] transgressive suffering, [I can]not bear [to] state [them, which with a] hundred thousand years within, [till] dying speaking, [they would be] difficult [to be] completed.”
[Note 6: Such suffering from retribution is so grave that merely to speak of them is unbearable.]
Bright Eyes, [having] heard [this] already, weeping tears [and] wailing, then said [to the] realm [of] space, “May my this mother, forever [be] liberated [from] hell. Completing thirteen years, [be] again without heavy transgressions, and experience [of the] evil paths. [May the] ten directions’ all Buddhas, [have] compassionate sympathy [for] me, hear me, for [my] mother, that giving rise [of my] vast [and] great vow.
If attaining my mother’s eternal departure [from the] three realms, and [from] this lowliness, and even [this] body of [a] woman, [in] eternal kalpas not receiving them, may I from now, [in the] days after, towards [and] before Pure Lotus Flower Eyes Thus Come [One’s] image, afterwards, within thousands [of] millions [of] koṭis [of] kalpas, respond [to] existing worlds, all hells, and three evil paths, all transgressive suffering sentient beings, vow [to] save [them, to] enable departure [from] hell’s evil realm, animals’, hungry ghosts’ [and] others’. [When] such [with] transgressive retribution [and] other persons, all accomplish Buddhahood completely, I [will] afterwards then accomplish Right Awakening.”
[Note 7: Initially for saving her mother from lower rebirths, empathising with all other beings too, her vow expanded to be for guiding all sentient beings to Buddhahood, thus giving rise to the Bodhi Mind (菩提心). As we have been reborn for countless times already, all sentient beings have been reborn as our mothers before. Thus, to give rise to the Bodhi Mind is to fulfil filial piety universally.]
[Having] made [her] vow already, completely heard [was] Pure Lotus Flower Eyes Thus Come [One, who] then told her, “Bright Eyes, [with] your great compassionate sympathy, [you are] well able [to], for [your] mother give rise [to] such [a] great vow. I contemplate [that] your mother, [with] thirteen years completed, [having] given up this retribution [body] already, [will be] born as [a] Brahmin, [with a] lifespan [with the] age [of a] hundred years. Passing this reward later, [she] will [be] born [in the] Land Without Worries, [with a] lifespan [that is] incalculable. Later accomplishing [the] Buddha fruit, [to] widely deliver human [and] heavenly [beings], numbering like [the] Ganges river’s sands.”‘
[Note 8: The Land Without Worries (无忧国) is a Pure Land (净土), thus having an incalculable lifespan there. This means that her mother would have eventually learnt and practised how to reach the Pure Land, through which Buddhahood is guaranteed. The primary means to reach Pure Lands is with sincere mindfulness of their Buddhas.]
[The] Buddha told Concentration Ease King, ‘At that time, that Arhat [with] blessings delivering Bright Eyes, then is Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva [now]. That Bright Eyes’ mother, then is Liberation Bodhisattva [now]. That Bright Eyes women, then is Earth Treasury Bodhisattva [now]. Within past long [and] distant kalpas, thus [with] compassionate sympathy giving rise [to] Ganges river’s sands [of] vows, [to] widely deliver sentient beings.
Within [the] future period, if [there] are men [and] women, those not practising good, those practising evil, and even those not believing [in] cause [and] effect, those [with] evil sexual [conduct and] false speech, those [with] double-tongued [and] harsh speech, those [who] slander [the] Great Vehicle, such all karmic sentient beings, [they will] definitely fall [into] evil realms.
[Note 9: Those who do not avoid evil, do good, and believe in the law of karma, who break precepts and slander the teachings that lead to Buddhahood will surely be reborn as hell-beings (地狱), hungry ghosts (饿鬼) and animals (畜生) in the three evil paths (三恶道) (if they do not repent in time).]
If meeting good-knowing friends, encouraging [to] enable, within one snap [of the] fingers, [to] rely [on] Earth Treasury Bodhisattva, all these sentient beings, [will] immediately attain liberation [from the] three evil paths’ retribution.
[Note 10: The primary means is with sincere mindfulness of the Bodhisattva’s name – ‘(Homage to and) refuge for life in Earth Treasury Bodhisattva’ (南无地藏王菩萨). This works with the same principle as mindfulness of Buddha in terms of Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛: Amitā[bha] Buddha). The Bodhisattva also guides beings mindful of this Buddha to Āmítuófó’s Pure Land.]
If able [to, with the] sincere mind take refuge reverently, and look up, prostrate, praise highly, [with] incenses, flowers, clothing, all kinds [of] precious treasures, or again [with] drinks [and] food, [with] those thus offering, [in] future thousands [of] millions [of] koṭis [of] kalpas within, [they will] constantly [be] in many heavens [to] receive wonderful joy.
If heavenly blessings [are] exhausted, descending [to be] born [in the] human world, still [for a] hundred thousand kalpas, constantly as emperors, [they will be] able [to] recollect past lives’ causes [and] effects, [from the] beginning [to the] end.
[Note 11: Having knowledge of past lives means past lessons learnt will be remembered, while past mistakes made will not be repeated. Thus will there be progress towards Buddhahood.]
[Note 12: Although the above advantages are great, the swiftest path to Buddhahood is by directly reaching Āmítuófó’s Pure Land at the end of this life, where the advantages will be immeasurably greater. While it is the easiest Pure Land to enter, through it, all other Pure Lands can be accessed. In Pure Lands, there will be direct access to the Buddhas’ teachings.]
Concentration [With] Ease King, thus does Earth Treasury Bodhisattva, have these such inconceivable great majestic supernormal powers, [to] widely benefit sentient beings. You [and] other all Bodhisattvas, should remember this sūtra, [to] widely proclaim [and] propagate [it].’
Concentration [With] Ease King [to the] Buddha said, ‘World-Honoured [One], may [you] not have worries. I [and] other ten million koṭis [of] Bodhisattva Mahāsattvas, [will] definitely [be] able [to] receive [the] Buddha’s majestic supernormal [power, to] widely expound this sūtra in Jambudvīpa, [to] benefit sentient beings.’
[Note 13: The essence of the sūtra is the Dharma Door Of Mindfulness Of Buddha (念佛法门). Thus, to promote its teachings is to share on focusing upon the practice of mindfulness of Buddha. Some practitioners forget this and focus only on reciting the sūtra.]
Concentration [With] Ease King Bodhisattva, [having] spoken [to the] World-Honoured [One] already, joined [his] palms reverently, made prostrations and retreated.
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Niànfó Teachings