Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Chapter Six: [The] Thus Come [One’s] Praises (Excerpt)
[Śākyamuni Buddha]: ‘Furthermore, Universal Vastness [Bodhisattva (菩萨)], if [the] future period’s all sentient beings’ kinds, perhaps [in] dreams or sleep, see many ghosts [and] gods, thus and [with] many forms, perhaps sorrowful or weeping, perhaps worried or sighing, perhaps fearful or terrified, all these are one life’s, ten lives’, [a] hundred lives’, [a] thousand lives’ past fathers [and] mothers, male [and] female younger brothers [and] sisters, husbands [and] wives, [their] family members, in evil realms, yet [to] attain departure, nowhere [with] hope [of having] blessings’ power [to be] saved, [who] will tell [their] past lives’ bones [and] flesh [i.e. family members], [to] arrange [and] create skilful means, [with the] aspiration [for their] departure [from the] evil paths.
[Note 1: Those familiar, even strangers, and even other forms of beings, as seen in a physically unconscious or semi-conscious state are usually related to us, be it presently or in the past, as family members or close friends, thus having karmic affinity to manifest and to be seen by us. They might appear to be lost and/or in despair as they are currently wandering spirits (孤魂), yet to be reborn, or as hungry ghosts (饿鬼), already reborn.]
[Note 2: Generally, it is difficult, if not impossible, due to their very negative karmic state, for hell-beings (地狱众生) and animals (畜生) to manifest in humans’ dreams. Those appearing might or might not know how to seek help to have good rebirths. There might be those not able to appear due to having worse evil karma, who might be similarly trapped too. Thus, there should always be practices done to deliver the deceased, in case they are in such unfortunate states.]
Universal Vastness, you, with supernormal powers, [should] send these family members, leading [them] towards, before all Buddhas’ [and] Bodhisattvas’ images, [with the] sincere mind, [to] personally read this sūtra, or [to] request people [to] read [it, with] its number [being] three times or seven times. These such evil paths’ family members, [with the] sūtra’s sounding, completing these times’ numbers, will attain liberation, and even within dreams [and] sleep, [they will] forever not again see [them].’
[Note 3: As the reading or reciting of the Earth Treasury Sūtra《地藏经》creates great meritorious virtues (功德), doing so and dedicating (回向) them to those in unfortunate states can eliminate much of their evil karma (恶业), thus liberating them from the evil paths (or realms) of hell-beings, hungry ghosts and animals. However, this is usually not liberation from the cycle of birth and death entirely yet; just attainment of better rebirths, in a human or heavenly path (人天道).]
[Note 4: The more times a sūtra is read or recited, the more meritorious virtues there will be for dedication to some or all beings with more suffering. However, chanting sincerely is more important than chanting repeatedly. Of course, chanting sincerely and repeatedly is even better. The teaching to chant three or seven times is perhaps to emphasize doing it more than once or twice, to create more meritorious virtues more certainly, also suggesting that the number of times need not be limited.]
[Note 5: As Āmítuófó’s (阿弥陀佛) Pure Land (净土) cannot be reached without the Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行), as defined at https://purelanders.com/2018/02/08/the-three-provisions, the streamlined sequence of practices at https://purelanders.com/wake can be used to guide ‘unseen’ beings to his Pure Land directly, where liberation from the cycle of birth and death is definite. There should be emphasis on offering clear guidance (开示) and ample support-chanting (助念) using the Buddha’s name, to set a good example on how sincere mindfulness of Buddha (念佛) should be done. This will express the essence of deliverance (超度) directly.]
[Note 6: In dream states, if clear-minded enough, the above in Note 5 can be practised too, to urge mindfulness of the Buddha to reach his Pure Land. When this is done, if there is uncertainty on the identities and intentions of the beings encountered, there is no ‘need’ to have fear, as mindfulness of Buddha will offer instant protection. (If the deceased are reborn in his Pure Land, they can be met there when one also reaches it later – if they are still there. Even if not there, their whereabouts can be known with the Buddha’s empowerment of supernormal powers.)]
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Niànfó Teachings
Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!