Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva

CHAPTER 04: Karmic Retributions of Beings of Jambudvipa

At that time Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, because I receive the awesome spiritual strength of the Buddha, Thus Come One, I am able to divide my body and rescue beings who are undergoing karmic retributions everywhere in billions of worlds. If it were not for the great compassionate strength of the Thus Come One, I would be unable to perform such changes and transformations.

Now the World Honored One has entrusted me with rescuing and liberating beings in the Six Paths until Ajita becomes a Buddha. I accept the entrustment, World Honored One. Please have no further concern.

Then the Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, "Beings who have not yet obtained liberation have unfixed natures and consciousnesses.

Their bad habits reap karma; their good habits bring rewards. Reacting to situations by doing good or evil acts causes them to turn in the Five Paths without a moment's rest. Throughout eons as numerous as motes of dust they remain confused, deluded, obstructed, and afflicted by difficulties.

They are like fish swimming through waters laced with nets. They may slip through and keep their freedom temporarily, but sooner or later they will be caught. I am concerned about such beings.

But since you keep making extensive vows repeatedly throughout successive eons to take such offenders across, what further worries need I have?

After that was said, a Bodhisattva, Mahasattva in the assembly named Samadhi Self-Mastery King said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, what vows has Earth Store Bodhisattva made during so many successive eons that he now receives the World Honored One's special praise? We hope the World Honored One will tell us about that."

Then the World Honored One said to Samadhi Self-Mastery King, "Listen attentively, listen attentively, and reflect well on the examples I am about to give you.

One time, limitless Asamkhyeyas of nayutas of inexpressible eons ago, a Buddha named All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge, One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well-Gone One, Unsurpassed Knight Who Understands the World, Taming and Subduing Hero, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, World Honored One appeared in the world.

"That Buddha's lifespan was sixty thousand eons.

Before he became a monk, he was the king of a small country and was friendly with the king of a neighboring country. Both of them practiced the Ten Wholesome Acts and benefited beings.

Because the citizens of those two neighboring countries did many bad things, the two kings made a plan using far-reaching expedients.

"One king vowed to quickly become a Buddha and then cross over absolutely all the others.

"The other king vowed, 'I do not want to become a Buddha until I first take across all those who are suffering for their offenses, enable them to gain peace, and finally to reach Bodhi.'"

The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Samadhi Self-Mastery King, "The king who vowed to become a Buddha quickly is All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One.

The king who vowed to keep crossing over beings who are suffering for their offenses rather than to become a Buddha is Earth Store Bodhisattva.

"Another time, limitless Asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One appeared in the world. His lifespan was forty eons.

In his Dharma-image age, an Arhat who had blessings from rescuing beings met a woman named Bright Eyes who offered a meal to him once while he was teaching and transforming beings.

"'What is your wish?' asked the Arhat.

"Bright Eyes replied, 'On the day of my mother's death I performed meritorious deeds for her rescue, but I do not know where my mother is now.'

"Sympathizing with her, the Arhat entered into samadhi to contemplate and saw that Bright Eyes' mother had fallen into a bad destiny where she was undergoing extreme suffering.

The Arhat asked, 'Bright Eyes, what karma did your mother commit while alive that makes her now have to undergo such terrible suffering in a bad destiny?'

"Bright Eyes replied, 'My mother enjoyed eating fish, turtles, and the like. She especially liked to fry or broil the eggs of fish and turtles. Every time she ate those she took thousands of lives. Oh, Venerable One, please be compassionate and tell me how she can be saved."

"The Arhat took pity on Bright Eyes and used a skillful means. He urged Bright Eyes, saying, 'With sincere resolve, be mindful of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One and also make carved and painted images of him. By doing so both the living and the dead will be rewarded.'

"Bright Eyes heard that, quickly renounced everything she loved, and swiftly commissioned painted images of the Buddha. Then she made offerings before them. The reverence she felt moved her to tears and she wept in grief as she beheld and bowed to the Buddha.

Suddenly near the end of night in a dream she saw that Buddha's body, dazzling gold in color and as large as Mount Sumeru, emitting great light. He said to Bright Eyes, 'Your mother will be born in your household before long and as soon as that child can feel hunger and cold he will speak.'

"Shortly thereafter a maidservant in the house bore a son who spoke before he was three days' old. Lowering his head and weeping he said to Bright Eyes, 'The karmic conditions we create during our lives and deaths result in retributions that we ourselves must undergo.

I am your mother and have been in darkness for a long time. Since you and I parted, I have repeatedly fallen into the great hells. Upon receiving the power of your blessings, I have been reborn as a servant's child with a short lifespan. Thirteen years from now, I will fall into the Evil Paths again. Do you have some way to free me so that I can avoid them?'

"When Bright Eyes heard those words, she knew without a doubt that they were her mother's. Choked with sobs, she said to the servant's child, 'Since you were my mother, you should know your own past offenses. What karma did you create that made you fall into the Evil Paths?'

"The maidservant's child answered, 'I am undergoing retribution for two kinds of karma: killing and slandering. Had I not received the blessings you earned to rescue me from difficulty, I would not yet be released from that karma.'

"Bright Eyes asked, 'What happens in the hells when beings undergo retributions for their offenses?'

"The maidservant's son answered, 'I can't bear to speak of the ways in which beings suffer for their offenses. Even if I lived for a hundred thousand years, I would find it hard to talk about.'

"When Bright Eyes heard that she wept bitterly and spoke into the air saying, 'I vow that my mother will be released from the hells forever. At the end of these thirteen years, she will be finished with her heavy offenses and will not go back to the Evil Paths.

0 Buddhas of the Ten Directions, with your compassion and sympathy, please listen to the vast and mighty vow that I am making for the sake of my mother.

If my mother will never again enter the Three Evil Paths, never again be born into low stations, and never again be female, then here before the image of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One, I vow that from this day on, throughout billions of eons I will respond to all beings who are undergoing suffering for their offenses in the hells or the Three Evil Paths of any world.

'I vow to rescue them from the bad destinies of the hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and the like. Only after beings with such retributions have all become Buddhas will I myself achieve Proper Enlightenment.'

"After making that vow, she clearly heard Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One say to her, 'Bright Eyes, your own great compassion and sympathy reaches your mother by this mighty vow that you are making.

My contemplation shows me that after thirteen years your mother will finish this retribution and will be born a Brahman with a lifespan of one hundred years. After that retribution she will be born in the Land of No Concern with a lifespan of uncountable eons. Later she will realize the fruition of Buddhahood and cross over people and gods numbering as many as sand grains in the Ganges.'"

Shakyamuni Buddha told Samadhi Self-Mastery King, "The Arhat whose blessings helped Bright Eyes then is now Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva. The mother of Bright Eyes is now Liberation Bodhisattva. Bright Eyes herself is now Earth Store Bodhisattva. He has been extending his compassion and sympathy like that from distant eons onward by making vows as many as Ganges's sands, to rescue vast numbers of beings.

"Men and women in the future may fail to do good deeds and only do evil; may not believe in cause and effect; may indulge in sexual misconduct and false speech; may use divisive and harsh speech; and may slander the Great Vehicle. Beings with karma like that should certainly fall into bad destinies.

But if they encounter Good and Wise Advisors who exhort them and lead them quickly to take refuge with Earth Store Bodhisattva, those beings will just as quickly be released from their retributions in the Three Evil Paths.

If those beings are resolved and respectful, if they behold, bow to, and praise the Bodhisattva, and if they make offerings of flowers, incense, clothing, jewels, food and drink to him, they will enjoy supremely wonderful bliss in the heavens for billions of eons.

When their blessings in the heavens end and they are born as people, they will have the potential to be leaders of nations throughout billions of eons who are able to remember all aspects of causes and effects from previous lives.

"0,Samadhi Self-Mastery King, Earth Store Bodhisattva has such inconceivably great awesome spiritual power that he uses expansively for the benefit of beings. All of you Bodhisattvas should remember this Sutra and proclaim and widely spread it."

Samadhi Self-Mastery King said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, please do not be concerned. We billions of Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, based on the Buddha's awesome spiritual strength, will certainly proclaim this Sutra widely throughout Jambudvipa for the benefit of beings."

Having spoken thus to the World Honored One, Samadhi Self-Mastery King Bodhisattva put his palms together respectfully, bowed, and withdrew.

At that time the Four Heavenly Kings arose from their seats, put their palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has been making such great vows from distant eons onward.

Why is it that up to now he has not yet finished taking beings across? Why does he continue to renew his vast and mighty vows? Please, World Honored One, explain that for us."

The Buddha told the Four Heavenly Kings, "Excellent, excellent. Now to bring benefit to you and to extend that benefit to people and gods of the present and future, I will speak about how Earth Store Bodhisattva uses his compassion and sympathy within the paths of birth and death in Jambudvipa in the Saha world to rescue, take across, and liberate beings who are undergoing suffering for their offenses.

The Four Heavenly Kings replied, "Please, World Honored One, we would like to hear about his work."

The Buddha told the Four Heavenly Kings, "From distant eons onward to the present. Earth Store Bodhisattva has been taking across and liberating beings. Since his vows are still not finished, he continues with compassion and sympathy to help beings suffering for their offenses in this world.

Moreover, he sees the ceaseless tangle of their causes extending on through infinite, future eons. Because of that he renews his vows. Thus, in this Saha world on the continent of Jambudvipa, this Bodhisattva teaches and transforms beings by means of billions of expedient means.

"Four Heavenly Kings, To killers, Earth Store Bodhisattva says that short lifespans will be the retribution.

To robbers he says that poverty and acute suffering will be the retribution.

To those who indulge in improper sex he says that rebirth as pigeons or mandarin drakes or ducks will be the retribution.

To those who use harsh speech he says that quarrelling families will be the retribution.

To those who slander he says that being tongueless and having cankerous mouths will be the retribution.

To the hateful he says that being ugly and crippled will be the retribution.

To the stingy he says that not getting what they seek will be the retribution.

To gluttons he says that hunger, thirst and sicknesses of the throat will be the retribution.

To hunters he says that a frightening insanity that destroys one's life will be the retribution.

To those who oppose their parents he says that being killed in natural disasters will be the retribution.

To arsons who burn mountains and forests he says that trying to take one's own life in the confusion of insanity will be the retribution.

To cruel parents or step-parents, he says that being flogged in future lives will be the retribution.

To those who net and trap animals, he says that being separated from one's own relatives will be the retribution.

To those who slander the Triple Jewel he says that being blind, deaf, or mute will be the retribution.

To those who slight the Dharma and regard the teachings with arrogance, he says that remaining in the bad paths forever will be the retribution.

To those who destroy or misuse possessions of the Eternally Dwelling he says that revolving in the hells for billions of eons will be the retribution.

To those who defile the pure conduct of others and bear false witness against members of the Sangha he says that remaining in the animal realm forever will be the retribution.

To those who scald, burn, behead, maim, or otherwise harm beings he says that undergoing repayment in kind will be the retribution. To those who violate precepts and the regulations of pure eating he says that being born as birds or beasts that must suffer hunger and thirst will be the retribution.

To those who make unprincipled and destructive use of things he says that being unable to ever obtain what they seek will be the retribution.

To the arrogant and haughty he says that being servile and of low station will be the retribution.

To those who use back-biting to cause discord among others he says that being tongueless or having speech impediments will be the retribution.

To those with deviant views he says that being reborn in undeveloped regions will be the retribution.

"The bad habits involving body, mouth, and mind karma that beings of Jambudvipa perpetuate, result in hundreds of thousands of retributions like those. I have listed only a few examples here.

Since the karma created by beings of Jambudvipa calls forth different responses, Earth Store Bodhisattva uses hundreds of thousands of expedient means to teach and transform them.

Those beings must first undergo retributions such as those and then fall into the hells, where they pass through eons without being able to escape. You should therefore protect people and protect nations. Do not allow the accumulation of karma to confuse beings."

On hearing that, the Four Heavenly Kings wept in sorrow, placed their palms together, and withdrew.

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