At that time the World-Honored One emitted hundreds of thousands of
tens of thousands of millions of great rays of light from the door of
his crown: the White Ray, the Great White Ray, the Auspicious Portent
Ray, the Great Auspicious Portent Ray, the Jade Ray, the Great Jade
Ray, the Purple Ray, the Great Purple Ray, the Blue Ray, the Great Blue
Ray, the Azure Ray, the Great Azure Ray, the Red Ray, the Great Red
Ray, the Green Ray, the Great Green Ray, the Gold Ray, the Great Gold
Ray, the Good Luck Cloud, the Great Good Luck Cloud, the Thousand-Wheeled
Ray, the Great Thousand- Wheeled Ray, the Jeweled Ray, the Great Jeweled
Ray, the Solar Disc Ray, the Great Solar Disc Ray, the Lunar Disc Ray,
the Great Lunar Disc Ray, the Palace Ray, the Great Palace Ray, the
Ocean Cloud Ray and the Great Ocean Cloud Ray.
This chapter discusses the merit and benefit derived from seeing the image or merely hearing the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva. The "door of his crown" refers to an invisible "opening" in the crown of the Buddha's head, which is said to be "invisibly high." It is not something exclusive to the Buddhas, however, since everyone may have such a "door." It is through this door that the Buddha-nature of a person skilled in cultivation of the Way leaves the body at death. When it leaves it goes wherever one wishes, but only on the condition that some successful work of cultivation took place during the person's life.
The light rays, which illuminated all beings in the nine Dharma realms below the Buddha, lit up hundreds of millions of worlds in order to reveal the importance of this sutra to living beings. These manifold light rays serve to remind us to put forth great effort in explaining, lecturing on, printing, and circulating this sutra.
The printing and circulation of sutras is a beneficial cause that leads to the development of wisdom. Since there are so few sutras and commentaries available in the West, it can be said that the ground is parched and waiting for the rain of Dharma. The circulation of sutras such as this one is the falling of the Dharma rain.
The names of the various rays of light indicate what the rays reveal and how they function. The White Ray and the Great White Ray represent the power of Earth Store Bodhisattva and of this sutra to disperse the darkness in the world; the Thousand-Wheeled Light reveals the appearance of a thousand-spoked wheel such as is seen on the sole of the Buddha's feet. The other rays reveal similar phenomena.
After emitting such rays of light from the door of his crown, the Buddha
spoke in wonderfully subtle sounds to the great assembly of gods, dragons,
and other members of the Eightfold Division of ghosts and spirits, and
to humans, nonhumans, and others: "Hear me now in the palace of the
Trayastrimsa Heaven as I praise Earth Store Bodhisattva's beneficial
and inconceivable deeds among men and gods, his rapid progress in the
causes of wisdom, his certification on the Tenth Ground, and his ultimate
irreversibility from Anuttarasamyaksambodhi."
Wonderfully subtle sounds refers to the Four Types of Eloquence and the Eight Types of Sound.
The first of the Four Types of Eloquence is Unobstructed Eloquence of Meaning. Although there is fundamentally no meaning to express, when the Buddha speaks Dharma to awaken beings to the state beyond words, the meanings and doctrines become infinite and multi-layered in response to the needs of living beings.
The second is Unobstructed Eloquence in Dharma. Fundamentally there is just one kind of Dharma, but when the Buddha speaks, it is manifested as limitless and unbounded Dharmas. Even though so many Dharmas appear, they eventually return to one, and so it is said, "One root disperses to the myriad numbers, a myriad numbers all return to the single root."
The third kind of eloquence is Unobstructed Eloquence of Phrasing. When some people speak they finish in two or three short sentences; when the Buddha speaks, on the other hand, his words are like an inexhaustible torrent.
The fourth kind of eloquence is the Eloquence of Delight in Speech. It includes not only the enjoyment of speaking Dharma, but also the quality, which causes those who hear to enjoy listening.
In addition to the Four Types of Eloquence there are Eight Types of Sound:
When the Buddha speaks he may use only some, or he may use all, of these eight sounds. One person may hear the Far-Reaching Sound while at the same time another hears the Gentle Sound. This is due to the differing natures of living beings.
The sutra text here makes a passing reference to the Ten Grounds, parts of the fifty-five stages of a Bodhisattva's progress. This is discussed in great detail in the Avatamsaka Sutra, as well as in the Surangama Sutra.
The first of the ten is called the Ground of Joy. At this stage a Bodhisattva is always happy, even if beaten or reviled. Because of his constant joy he is able to reach the second ground, Leaving Defilement. Leaving defilement means putting aside all greed for personal comfort and most particularly greed for sexual pleasure. When all desire and unclean thoughts have been put aside, the third stage, Emitting Light, is reached. Once light is emitted, it flares into the blazing light of wisdom. Consequently, the name of the fourth stage is Blazing Wisdom. The fifth ground is called Difficult to Conquer, since the Bodhisattva in this stage has such wonderful spiritual powers that he is invincible in debate. The sixth ground is called Manifestation, since there are further manifestations of wisdom and light. The seventh is called Far Traveling, and the eighth Unmoving. At the eighth stage the Bodhisattva does not need to move from his field of enlightenment and yet he is able to manifest and teach beings throughout the universe. The ninth stage is called Good Wisdom, and the tenth Dharma Cloud. At this stage the wisdom and compassion of the Bodhisattva cover beings like a great cloud that shades the earth.
In the above passage of text the Buddha praised Earth Store Bodhisattva's irreversibility from Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the Utmost, Right, and Equal Enlightenment. Although Earth Store Bodhisattva has not yet become a Buddha, the degree of his enlightenment is equal to that of the Buddhas.
There are varying degrees of enlightenment. Those of the Two Vehicles- Sound-Hearers and those enlightened to causation-are surpassed by the enlightenment of the Bodhisattvas. The enlightenment of the Bodhisattvas is said to be right and equal, since it can be said to be equal to that of the Buddhas. Such enlightenment, however, is still not the highest degree, since it is surpassed by that of the Buddha. Thus only Buddhas are said to have the Unsurpassed, Right, and Equal Enlightenment.
The term "irreversibility" refers to the Three Types of Non-retreat. The first of these is Irreversibility of Position, so called because there is no retreat to the practices of the Two Vehicles. The second is Irreversibility of Practice: there is no retreat to the non-cultivating behavior of common people. The third is Irreversibility of Thought, so called because the thought is firmly fixed on the practice of the Great-Vehicle Dharmas.
As this was said, in the midst of the assembly a Bodhisattva, Mahasattva,
named Contemplator of the World's Sounds, arose from his seat, knelt,
and with palms together said to the Buddha, "World-Honored One, Earth
Store Bodhisattva, Mahasattva, is replete with great compassion and
pities living beings who suffer for their offenses. In thousands of
tens of thousands of millions of worlds he manifests thousands of ten
thousands of millions of transformation bodies. His meritorious virtues
and awesome spiritual powers are inconceivable.
"I have heard the World-Honored One and the limitless Buddhas of the
ten directions praise Earth Store Bodhisattva with different mouths
but a common sound, saying that even if all the Buddhas of the past,
present, and future were to speak of his meritorious qualities, these
qualities still could not be fathomed. I have heard the World-Honored
One tell the great assembly about the benefits of Earth Store Bodhisattva.
World-Honored One, for the sake of living beings of the present and
future, please explain Earth Store Bodhisattva's inconceivability cause
the gods, dragons, and the others of the Eightfold Division to gaze
in worship and attain blessings."
When the Contemplator of the World's Sounds, Avalokitesvara, says that he has heard the Buddhas of the ten directions praise Earth Store Bodhisattva with different mouths but a common sound, there are two possible explanations. One is that each Buddha spoke at a different time and place, yet each of them said exactly the same words; the other is that all the Buddhas simultaneously made this statement.
Although the meritorious qualities derived from worshiping the Buddhas are limitless, we can select five representative benefits as examples. Those who bow to and worship Buddhas and Bodhisattvas gain a pleasing appearance, a physiognomy that causes anyone who sees them to feel respect. The second benefit is the obtaining of a wonderful sound. The third is the attainment of wealth and honor. The fourth is birth in honorable families. The fifth is rebirth in the heavens.
The Buddha replied to the Bodhisattva Contemplator of the World's Sounds,
"You have great affinity with the Saha World. If gods, dragons, men,
women, spirits, ghosts, or any other being who suffers for offenses
within the Six Paths hears your name, sees your image, fixes his gaze
on you, or praises you, they will become irreversible in the unsurpassed
Way. They will always be born among men and gods and there receive wonderful
bliss. When their conditions are ripe they will encounter Buddhas and
be given their predictions of enlightenment. You now have great compassion
and pity for living beings, for gods, dragons, and the others of the
Eightfold Division. Listen as I proclaim the inconceivable benefits
of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Listen attentively. I will discuss it for
you." The Contemplator of the World's Sounds said, "So be it, World-Honored
One, I will be pleased to hear."
The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Contemplator of the World's Sounds,
"In worlds of the present and future there will be gods whose heavenly
merit has ended, who manifest the five signs of decay and are about
to fall into the Evil Paths. When those signs appear, if those gods,
whether male or female, see Earth Store Bodhisattva's image, hear his
name, gaze at him or bow once to him, they will increase their heavenly
blessings, receive great happiness, and never again fall into the retributions
of the Three Evil Paths. How much more will limitless, boundless merit,
virtue, and blessings accrue to those who see and hear the Bodhisattva
and use incense, flowers, clothing, food, drink, jewels, and gems as
gifts and offerings?"
While the blessings enjoyed in the heavens are extremely blissful, still certain signs appear that mark the imminent fall of a god. There are three recensions of this list of signs, one giving five major signs, one giving five minor signs, and one giving seven signs. The five major signs are as follows:
In addition to the five major signs of decay, there are five minor signs, which are as follows:
In addition to the five major and five minor signs of decay, there is yet another list giving seven signs of decay. Some of these repeat those in the above lists but since they are often given as a unit, they will be treated as such here :
If, when these signs of decay are manifested, the gods are able to worship Earth Store Bodhisattva, their blessings will not only continue but increase.
"Moreover, Contemplator of the World's Sounds, if living beings in
the Six Paths, present and future, are on the verge of death and hear
the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva, the single passing of that sound
by their ear will eternally remove them from the sufferings of the Three
Evil Paths. How much more will this be true if the parents and relatives
use the dying man's houses, wealth, jewels, and clothing to commission
the carving or painting of Earth Store Bodhisattva's image. If that
sick person has not yet died and sees or hears that, on his behalf,
relatives have used his house, jewels, and so forth for the carving
or painting of Earth Store Bodhisattva's image, because of that merit,
he may quickly be cured and his lifespan prolonged, even if his karmic
retribution is such that he should have undergone severe sickness. If
that person's retribution is such that because of all manner of offense
obstacles and karmic obstructions he should fall into the Evil Paths
at death, because of receiving such merit he will be born among men
and gods, and there receive extremely wonderful bliss. All his obstacles
due to offenses will be eradicated.
"Moreover, Contemplator of the World's Sounds, in the future a man
or woman may lose father, mother, brothers, or sisters while he or she
is still an infant or child under ten years. When fully grown the person
may think of these parents and relatives but does not know into what
path or world or heaven they have been born. If that person is able
to carve or paint an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva, hear his name,
or gaze upon and worship him; and if he can continue to do so from one
through seven days, constantly hearing his name, seeing his image, beholding,
worshiping, and making offerings without retreating from his initial
resolve, then that person's relatives will be liberated for many aeons.
Even though their karma might be such as to cause them to fall into
Evil Paths, they will be quickly reborn in the heavens, where they will
receive supremely wonderful bliss. This results from their receiving
the meritorious virtues established by that son, daughter, brother,
or sister who has carved or painted an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva
and then bowed to and worshiped it. If that person's relatives have
already been born in the heavens on the strength of their own merit
and are already experiencing supremely wonderful bliss, upon receiving
this additional merit their causes for wisdom will increase and they
will receive limitless bliss.
"If that person is able to behold and worship Earth Store Bodhisattva's
image single-mindedly during three weeks, reciting his name a full ten
thousand times, the Bodhisattva may manifest a limitless body and tell
that person the name of the world in which his relatives have been born.
The Bodhisattva may manifest great spiritual power and personally lead
him to those worlds in a dream to see his relatives."
Because living beings, even those who believe in the Buddha, may sometimes be quite confused, the Bodhisattva does not always come to them in their waking state but sometimes appears in dreams.
"Moreover, if one is able to recite the Bodhisattva's name one thousand
times a day every day for one thousand days, the Bodhisattva will command
the ghosts and spirits to abide on the ground where that person is and
to surround and protect him for his entire life. In this world his clothing
and food will be abundant and he will have no suffering from sickness
or the like. No accidents will occur in his house, much less affect
his person. Finally, the Bodhisattva will rub his crown and bestow a
prediction of enlightenment upon him.
"Moreover, Contemplator of the World's Sounds, if a good man or woman
in the future wishes to practice great compassion to rescue all living
beings and wishes to cultivate unsurpassed Bodhi in order to leave the
Triple World, and if that person sees Earth Store Bodhisattva's image,
hears his name, and relies on him sincerely, using incense, flowers,
clothing, jewels, food, and drink to make offerings, or if he gazes
at and worships him, his wishes will quickly be realized and his obstructions
will forever be left behind.
"Moreover, Contemplator of the World's Sounds, if good men and women
in the future wish to fulfill hundreds of thousands of ten thousands
of millions of wishes and to succeed in as many undertakings regarding
both present and future, they should simply return to and rely upon,
gaze in worship at, make offerings to, and praise the image of Earth
Store Bodhisattva. Their wishes and goals will certainly be realized.
Moreover, they may ask Earth Store Bodhisattva, the Compassionate One,
to eternally protect them. In a dream the Bodhisattva will rub their
crowns and bestow predictions of enlightenment.
"Moreover, Contemplator of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, good men
and women in the future may have high regard for the Great-Vehicle Sutras
and make the inconceivable resolve to read and recite them from memory.
They may then encounter a good master who instructs them, so that they
may become familiar with the texts. But as soon as they learn them,
they forget them. They may become unable for months and years to read
or recite them from memory. It is because such persons' karmic obstructions
from past lives have not yet been eradicated that they do not have the
nature to read and recite sutras of the Great Vehicle.
Upon hearing Earth Store Bodhisattva's name or seeing his image, they
should feel deep respect and state their situation to the Bodhisattva.
They should then take incense, flowers, clothing, food, and drink, as
well as all manner of playthings, and make offerings to the Bodhisattva.
They should place a bowl of pure water before the Bodhisattva's image
for one day and one night. Afterward, placing their palms together,
let them state their request and then drink the water while facing south.
As the water is about to enter their mouths they should be particularly
sincere and earnest. After drinking the water they should abstain from
the five pungent plants, wine, meat, all sexual activity, and false
speech, as well as all killing and harming, for one to three weeks.
In dreams these good men or women will see Earth Store Bodhisattva manifesting
a limitless body and anointing their crowns with water. When they awaken
they will be endowed with keen intelligence. Should this sutra then
be heard by them one time, they will eternally remember it and never
forget or lose a single sentence or verse."
The reason beings encounter obstructions to their cultivation is that they have not yet eradicated karmic blocks from past lives. These obstructions often appear at moments when beings are about to undertake some beneficial practice, the recitation of sutras, for example. Just as they are about to start they are overwhelmed with weariness and become captivated by the demons of sleep. As soon as they put the text of the sutra down, the demons leave them alone, and if they become involved in idle, useless activities and chatter, they find themselves bursting with energy. The dharma given here to counteract this type of obstruction includes making offerings, among them even playthings. This refers to all sorts of toys, such as the balls children play with. Don't think, however, that the Bodhisattva likes to play with toys. The point of this offering is that one gives the things he most enjoys. This particular dharma also requires abstention from the five pungent plants, a list that includes everything in the category of garlic, onions, shallots, chives, and leeks. These items are forbidden because they tend to increase torpor, stupidity, anger, and sexual desire.
"Moreover, Contemplator of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, if there
are people in the future whose food and clothing are insufficient, who
endure sickness and ill fortune, whose families are not peaceful, whose
relatives are scattered, who are bothered by unfortunate occurrences,
or who are often startled in their sleep by dreams, upon hearing the
Bodhisattva's name and seeing his image, they should recite his name
a full ten thousand times with extreme sincerity and respect. Those
inauspicious matters will gradually be eradicated, and they will attain
peace and happiness. Their food and clothing will be abundant and even
in their dreams they will be peaceful and happy.
"Moreover, Contemplator of the World's Sounds, good men or women in
the future who must enter mountain forests, cross over rivers, seas,
and the great waters or pass through dangerous roads for the sake of
earning their own livelihood, for public affairs, matters of life and
death, or other urgent business, should first recite the name of Earth
Store Bodhisattva a full ten thousand times. The ghosts and spirits
of the ground they pass over will always surround and protect them in
their walking, standing, sitting, and lying down. The peace and happiness
of those persons will constantly be guarded, so that even if they encounter
tigers, wolves, lions, or other harmful evil creatures, the beasts will
be unable to hurt them."
The Buddha told the Contemplator of the World's Sounds, "Earth Store
Bodhisattva has great affinity with beings in jambudvipa. Hundreds of
thousands of aeons would not be time enough to describe the benefits
derived by living beings who see this Bodhisattva and hear his name.
Therefore, Contemplator of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, you should
use your spiritual powers to propagate this sutra and to cause the living
beings of the Saha world to receive peace and happiness throughout hundreds
of thousands of myriads of aeons."
At that time the World-Honored One spoke verses, saying:
Cannot be explained with infinities of words.
To see, to hear, to worship for but one thought
Brings endless benefit to men and gods.
If a man's or woman's or a god's or dragon's
Lifespan ends and he should fall
Into evil ways, but returns sincerely and trusts
In this Lord, his lifespan will increase
And his offenses will be wiped away.
Those who have lost their parents' devoted care,
And do not know what paths their spirits took;
Lost brothers, sisters, or some other kin,
Whom in their youth they never met at all,
Should carve or paint an image of this Lord,
Should gaze and worship him unceasingly,,
And for twenty-one days constantly hold his name. :
The Bodhisattva will reveal a boundless body .
And show the realms in which the kin were born.
And kin who have fallen into evil ways
Will quickly leave behind these states of woe.
To cultivate the Bodhi unsurpassed
And leave behind the suffering Triple World,
To bring about the great compassion heart,
just gaze upon the image of this Lord.
Each wish one makes will quickly come to pass
And karmic hindrances will not bind one up.
If one does not retreat from his first thought
His crown will be rubbed, he'll hear a prophecy.
If a man resolves to read a sutra text,
Wishing to cross over confused beings to the other shore,
Although his wish transcends all words and thoughts,
What he has read he straightaway forgets;
Because he doubts, blocked by karmic faults,
He cannot hold the sutra in his mind.
To Earth Store Bodhisattva he should offer
Scents and flowers, clothing, food, and toys,
And place pure water on that Lord's altar,
Wait one day and night, then drink the water;
Carefully avoid the pungent plants,
Both meat and wine, improper sex and speech;
For twenty-one days neither kill nor injure;
Just recite the name of this great Lord.
Then in a dream he'll see the boundless realm
And, once awake, obtain keenness of ear;
Then when a sutra text passes his ear
Throughout ten million lives he'll not forget.
The power of this Lord cannot be thought
Or talked about, yet it can cause one to
Obtain great wisdom.
If poverty-stricken beings, plagued with disease,
Whose homes are troubled, whose relatives are scattered,
Who aren't at peace, even in sleep or dreams,
Seek a way to leave misfortune's grasp
Ana sincerely gaze in worship on this Lord,
Their bitter sorrows will be wiped away.
With sufficient food and clothes, and peaceful dreams,
Gods and ghosts will circle and protect them.
Those who travel in mountain wilds, on seas,
Who meet with poisonous birds and beasts, or evil
Men or ghosts, spirits, or evil winds-
So many kinds of troublesome disturbances-
Should gaze in worship and make offerings
To Earth Store Bodhisattva's form.
Within the mountain forests, and on the seas,
The evil multitudes will disappear.
Avalokitesvara, be attentive.
Earth Store cannot be reached by word or thought.
A thousand million years is time too brief
To fully describe the power of this Lord.
If humans can but hear the name "Earth Store,"
Or if they see his image, worship once,
Or offer flowers, clothing, food, perfumes,
They will delight in a thousand wondrous joys.
If one returns this merit to the Dharma-
Realm, he will become a Buddha, freed
From birth and death. Therefore, Avalokitesvara,
You should know this sutra and spread it through worlds
More numerous than the Ganges Riverís sand."
At that time the World-Honored One extended his gold-colored arm and
again rubbed the crown of Earth Store Bodhisattva, Mahasattva, as he
said, "Earth Store, Earth Store, your spiritual powers, compassion,
wisdom, and eloquence are inconceivable. Even if all the Buddhas of
the ten directions were to praise your inconceivable qualities, they
could not finish in thousands of tens of thousands of aeons.
The Buddha calls Earth Store Bodhisattva's name twice in order to show the depth of his compassion and loving care for him. Earth Store's spiritual power is said to be inconceivable because all the beings in the hells receive its benefit, enabling even those who fundamentally should not be able to leave their sufferings to do so. In addition, his compassion is said to be inconceivable because there are none to whom he is not compassionate.
There are three major types of compassion: compassion which is offered with conditions, compassion with respect to Buddhadharmas, and even unconditionally offered compassion. The latter kind of compassion is particularly wonderful and beyond thought. The power of Earth Store Bodhisattva's compassion is unusually great, a strength which even most other Bodhisattvas cannot match: he alone has made the vow to go to the hells and rescue beings. Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, and Samantabhadra have great vows, yet they teach beings in the world; only Earth Store Bodhisattva does not fear the sufferings of the hells and goes there to teach beings. Thus he is known as the Teaching Host in the Dark Regions.
A demonstration of his inconceivable eloquence can be found in his ability to teach hungry ghosts to turn from evil to good. If his eloquence were not completely unobstructed and beyond thought, he would certainly be unable to effect such changes. Even if you wish to investigate the inconceivability of Earth Store Bodhisattva's various states, you will be unable to do so, since they are completely beyond all thought. This being the case, what is there to investigate?
"Earth Store, Earth Store, remember that now, in the Trayastrimsa Heaven
in this great assembly of hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands
of millions of ineffable Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, gods, dragons, and eightfold
divisions of spirits, I entrust to you the men and gods of the future
who have not yet left the burning house of the Triple World. Do not
allow those beings to fall into the Evil Paths for the space of even
a single day and night, much less fall into the uninterrupted hell of
the Five Offenses and the Avici hell where they would have to pass through
thousands of tens of thousands of millions of aeons without being able
"Earth Store, the beings of Jambudvipa are of irresolute will and nature,
and they habitually do many evil deeds. Even if they resolve their thoughts
on good, they quickly turn back on that resolve, and if they encounter
evil conditions they tend to become increasingly involved in them. For
this reason I reduplicate hundreds of thousands of millions of transformation
bodies to cross them over in accord with their respective natures.
The irresolute nature of living beings can be seen in those who want to study one day and not the next, who want to do good for a moment and then decide to do evil. In one moment you resolve to cultivate and accomplish the pure Dharma-body, and then the resolve changes to a wish for the retribution body. A moment later you may decide that having a hundred thousand million transformation bodies is the most desirable goal and switch to that, and so there is nothing fixed about your will or resolve. These are examples of irresolute will concerning the bodies of the Buddha.
On the other hand, irresolute will can also be seen in the desire, on one day, to cultivate the Ten Good Deeds and attain rebirth in the heavens, followed by a burst of activity in the Ten Evils the next. One's resolve is set for the heavens, but the next day one thinks that being an animal wouldn't be bad. An unfixed nature very commonly shows up in the resolve to stop smoking, drinking, or taking drugs: one's resolutions often last for only a moment. What is particularly bad about this kind of vacillating behavior is that people who act this way always end up rationalizing their actions one way or another.
When people of irresolute nature meet a teacher who tells them to learn or do something and stresses its importance, they may try to take action, but they lack the resolve to complete the project. If someone tells them to misbehave, on the other hand, they don't even need instructions but learn to do it spontaneously. Gamblers are an excellent example of this tendency: no one has to teach them how to place bets; they see it done once and remember all the details of how to do it themselves in the future.
While it does happen that living beings may decide to do good deeds-contribute to building a temple, printing sutras, or making images, for example-they may quickly turn back on their initial resolve. They give, but the gift is accompanied by the thought, "What's in it for me?" A good historical example of such a person is the Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty, who built temples, aided the Sangha, and propogated Buddhism, but who still had to ask Patriarch Bodhidharma how much merit he had accrued.
When living beings tend to retreat from good, they surge forward into evil-they are attracted by anything that is conducive to falling into evil paths. Foremost among these causes are greed for sex and wealth; hatred, which leads to murder, arson, and other antisocial acts; and stupidity, which drives one constantly to try to get what he cannot attain.
"Earth Store, I now carefully entrust the multitudes of men and gods
of the future to you. If, in the future, gods or men plant good roots
in the Buddhadharma, be they as little as a hair, dust mote, grain of
sand, or drop of water, you should use your spiritual powers and virtues
to protect them so that they gradually cultivate the unsurpassed way
and do not retreat from it.
"Moreover, Earth Store, if in the future men and gods who ought to
fall into the Evil Paths in accord with the retribution of their deeds,
who are on the verge of falling into those paths, or who are already
at the very gates of those paths, recite the name of one Buddha or Bodhisattva,
or a single sentence or verse from a Mahayana sutra, you should manifest
a limitless body, smash the hells, and cause them to be born in the
heavens and receive supremely wonderful bliss."
The World Honored One then spoke in verse, saying,
Men and gods of the future,
It should be realized that those who are studying this sutra are included in the group of good men and women, for if they were not they would have given up the study long ago. Evil men and women who take up this study feel as if they are sitting on needles: they put it aside and run off as soon as possible. Good men and women who take it up feel ever increasing joy in study. Furthermore, this passage reassures us that, although we beings are of irresolute nature and mind, there is no need to be frightened, since Sakyamuni Buddha and Earth Store Bodhisattva have made this pact. All that is required is to have done good works in the Buddhadharma.
It may be objected by someone that he has done good but has never seen Earth Store Bodhisattva come to protect him. Think it over a moment. Although his protection may not have been visible, were you ever in an accident in which you might have been injured or killed but from which you escaped unharmed? That is an example of Earth Store Bodhisattva's protection of you.
If you object that you have never been in an accident and consequently have not been protected by Earth Store Bodhisattva, then continue to reflect. Have you ever had a serious illness from which you recovered? Or have you ever been on a boat in rough waters and avoided capsizing? Such good fortune is due to the protection of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Have you ever been on an airplane trip that was completely without incident? That too is through the protection of Earth Store Bodhisattva. In fact, if you've ever felt apprehensive about undertaking a voyage and managed to overcome your fear, that too is an example of Earth Store Bodhisattva giving you a little added courage. The situations in which he responds are varied and uncountable. Because of the agreement made in the palace of the Trayastrimsa Heaven, living beings should have faith in him.
At that time Earth Store Bodhisattva, Mahasattva, knelt, placed his
palms together, and said to the Buddha, "World-Honored One, please do
not be concerned. If good men and women in the future have a single
thought of respect toward the Buddhadharma, I shall use hundreds of
thousands of expedient devices to cross them over so that they may quickly
attain liberation from birth and death. How much more will those who
have heard of good undertakings and cultivated in accord with them be able
to attain spontaneous irreversibility from the unsurpassed Way."
It is important to consider the reasons that one was born a human being. Are we humans merely in order to live in confusion and die a muddled death? Is the point of our lives merely to eat our fill and go to sleep, only to wake to eat again? Are we in the world only in order to work at a job and get enough money for a couple of meals a day and a suit of clothes? If all we are here for is to eat and sleep, sleep and eat again, while waiting to die, then it would be better to hasten our death, for such a life is utterly meaningless. The troubles and difficulties far surpass the ease and pleasure, and death is preferable.
But if we come to human life for the purpose of establishing merit and benefiting those who come after us, then there is meaning. It is for those who come first to teach those who come later, for those who understand to teach those who do not. If everyone understood the principle of cultivation, there would be much less sorrow in the world. In whatever you do, see to it that you are helping others, not trying to be helped by them. Emulate the behavior of Sakyamuni Buddha, of the Bodhisattvas, of the great Patriarchs of old, all of whom worked exclusively for the benefit of beings. Do not merely become involved in "intellectual Zen" and chatter about Dharma.
If you hear of someone doing a meritorious deed-printing sutras, or constructing temples, for example-support those endeavors. If you are unable to do so with money, give your labor. In general, make sure that your every action is for the purpose of aiding beings.
When this was said, a Bodhisattva named Empty Space Store arose from
the midst of that assembly and spoke to the Buddha: "World-Honored One,
I have come to the Trayastrimsa Heaven and heard the Thus Come One speak
of the inconceivable power of Earth Store Bodhisattva's awesome spiritual
strength. If in the future good men or good women, as well as gods and
dragons, hear this sutra and the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva, or
if they gaze at and worship his image, how many kinds of advantages
and blessings will they attain? Please, World-Honored One, speak about
this for the sake of those living beings in the present and in the future."
The Buddha told Empty Space Store Bodhisattva, "Listen attentively,
listen attentively, I shall enumerate and describe them to you. If there
are good men and women in the future who see Earth Store's image, or
who hear this sutra or read or recite it; who use incense, flowers,
food and drink, clothing, or gems as offerings; or if they praise, behold,
and worship him, they shall attain twenty-eight kinds of advantages:
Empty Space Store Bodhisattva, who comes from a world thousands of millions of world systems away, has a jewel in his topknot from which anything one wishes for will come. Should you ever encounter a Bodhisattva with a wishing gem atop his head, you should recognize him, for if you do, you will be able to have some of the treasures he has in empty space, and you will never be poor.
When the text speaks of beings who see Earth Store Bodhisattva's image, it refers to the trueness of their vision. Hearing the sutra shows the trueness of their hearing; recitation and offerings of food and drink show the trueness of their speech and taste; while offerings of incense and flowers show the trueness of their sense of smell. The use of clothing and gems shows the trueness of their sense of touch. When all six senses (including thought) are true, living beings may derive twenty-eight kinds of benefit. Since many are self-explanatory, only a few of the benefits will be mentioned in this commentary.
They will accumulate superior causes of wisdom. The causes of wisdom include listening to explanations of sutras and hearing Dharma spoken, things which most ordinary people do not become involved in.
Their food and drink will be abundant. Everyone ought to look at himself at this point and ask why it is that he may not have sufficient food and clothing in this life. It is a result of not having planted good roots in the past, of not having worshiped Earth Store Bodhisattva's image, and not having recited this sutra.
Epidemics will not touch them. I recall that once, when I was in Manchuria, there was an epidemic, and in one household of thirteen people, eleven died. One of the two added to make the full complement was a servant in the house and the other a visiting relative. The death from one disease of so many at one time is what is meant by an epidemic.
At that time I said to four of my young disciples, "Let us go rescue people."
"How?" they asked.
"We shall disperse the epidemic simply by reciting the Great Compassion Mantra." We then went to all the villages in which the disease was raging and circled each one three times while reciting the Great Compassion Mantra, after which the sickness abated. The Great Compassion Mantra, a dharma cultivated by many of those listening to this lecture, is truly miraculous. But until you have had this sort of experience you do not realize it.
They will be respected by all who see them. It will not be necessary to hang out a sign and advertise oneself; there will be no effort required for people to respect you, for respect will come naturally. If there is virtue, the respect comes naturally; if there is no virtue, no matter how hard a wind you blow, you'll never be able to stir up respect. It is definitely not a good thing to go about saying what a great protector of the Buddhadharma you are or how you are a member of this and that benevolent association. It is pseudo-virtue that constantly tries to sell itself, and the result of such activity is that while those without eyes may be deceived, people who see clearly will know you for the pitiful thing you are.
Women will be reborn as men. It was mentioned earlier in the sutra that women have five obstacles and cannot hold certain positions. It is important to understand that this passage is not saying that a woman can turn into a man in this life. If she dislikes the body of a woman, she may be reborn male in the next life. Women who do not mind being women, however, will be reborn in royal households.
Their families will be happy. In spite of the intimacy between father and son, sometimes this relationship is strained. Children often look on their parents as having addled or petrified brains totally incapable of understanding modern trends. They often feel that their parents have no idea how to be a father or mother and that the parents are totally misguided and confused. Parents, on their part, may sometimes realize that their children are up to no good, but because of the deep compassion and love they have for them, they are willing to overlook their children's faults.
The same kind of problem may even arise between husbands and wives. Before the marriage everything is fine and there is never a quarrel, but after the wedding they begin to display their tempers to one another. As a result of worshiping Earth Store, none of these problems appear.
At night their dreams will be peaceful and happy. They may dream of making offerings to the Buddha, of bowing, reciting sutras, of holding mantras, of chanting the Buddha's name, or of other beneficial practices.
Their deceased relatives will leave suffering behind. This refers not only to relatives in this life but to ancestors and parents of aeons of past lives.
"Moreover, Empty Space Store Bodhisattva, if gods, dragons, or spirits of the present or future hear Earth Store Bodhisattva's name, bow to his image, or merely hear of his past vows and conduct, and then praise him and gaze at and worship him, they will attain seven kinds of advantages.
As above, most of these benefits are self-explanatory, and only a few will be noted here.
Irreversibility from Bodhi simply refers to setting out to become a Buddha and continuing until that goal is reached. You start out by holding the Five Precepts, leaving home, cultivating to become a great monk, a patriarch, and then, after you practice the Bodhisattva way, a Buddha. Of course, you must continue the practice and not turn back. You cannot say one day that you will cultivate the Five Precepts and then the very next moment hesitate about practicing them. Do not think that if you receive the precepts and then break them it will be a great loss of face, too embarassing a position, and consequently put off receiving them. Don't on the one hand think about leaving home and, on the other, start doubting the merits of doing so.
When the text says their fundamental powers will increase it means that their inherent ability to become Buddhas will grow daily. In addition to these benefits they will attain the penetration of their past lives and know, for example, "Once I was a tiny ant and now I have obtained the enormous body of a human. I went from an ant to a butterfly, from a butterfly to a songbird; the songbird became an eagle, a vegetarian eagle, and so blessings and wisdom were cultivated for accomplishing Bodhi. Along that road I have now become a human." When you obtain the penetration of your past lives you will know all of this, for behind one body there follow limitless numbers of differing bodies
At that time, all those who had come from the ten directions, unspeakable
numbers of Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, as well as the great Bodhisattvas,
gods, dragons, and the remainder of the Eightfold Divisions who heard
Sakyamuni Buddha's praise of Earth Store Bodhisattva's great inconceivable
spiritual powers, exclaimed that there had never been anything like
At that time incense, flowers, heavenly garments, and gems rained down
in the Trayastrimsa Heaven as offerings to Sakyamuni Buddha and Earth
Store Bodhisattva. When this was finished, the entire assembly again
gazed, made obeisance, placed their palms together, and withdrew.
The exegesis of the sutra text is now finished, but cultivation is not complete until Buddhahood has been achieved. Only then can it be said, "Done is what had to be done. The life of purity has been led, there is no further becoming."
Those who have been able to study this sutra are people with good roots, for if they were not, there is no way they could have had this opportunity. In fact, even if they wanted to study it they would be unable to do so. Some who do not have good roots might even say that they do not wish to become Buddhas, that they would just as soon go off to the hells and let Earth Store Bodhisattva use his great powers to release them, so that they could continue a life of wrongdoing. They ignore the fact that Earth Store Bodhisattva's great spiritual powers enable him to know full well what is in their thoughts, and that when he sees such a plan he neglects to open the gates of those offenders' hell. Do not study the ways of such people. Go onward in cultivation, practice in accordance with the principles of this sutra. Do so with energy, do not retreat. Go forward with vigor.