Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva
CHAPTER 08: Praises of King Yama and His Followers
At that time from within the Iron Ring Mountain, Lord Yama and his following of infinite ghost kings came before the Buddha in the Trayastrimsha Heaven. They were
the Ghost King Evil Poison, the Ghost King Many Evils,
the Ghost King Great Argument, the Ghost King White Tiger,
the Ghost King Blood Tiger, the Ghost King Crimson Tiger,
the Ghost King Spreading Disaster, the Ghost King Flying Body,
the Ghost King Lightning Flash, the Ghost King Wolf Tooth,
the Ghost King Thousand Eyes, the Ghost King Animal Eater,
the Ghost King Rock Bearer, the Ghost King Lord of Bad News,
the Ghost King Lord of Calamities, the Ghost King Lord of Food,
the Ghost King Lord of Wealth, the Ghost King Lord of Domestic Animals,
the Ghost King Lord of Birds, the Ghost King Lord of Beasts,
the Ghost King Lord of Mountain Sprites, the Ghost King Lord of Birth,
the Ghost King Lord of Life, the Ghost King Lord of Sickness,
the Ghost King Lord of Danger, the Ghost King Three Eyes,
the Ghost King Four Eyes, the Ghost King Five Eyes,
the Ch'i Li Shih King, the Great Ch'i Li Shih King,
the Ch'i Li Ch'a King, the Great Ch'i Li Ch'a King,
the No Ch'a King, the Great No Ch'a King,
and other such great ghost kings.
With them were hundreds of thousands of minor ghost kings who dwelt throughout Jambudvipa; each presiding over certain jurisdictions.
Aided by the Buddha's awesome spiritual strength and the power of Earth Store Bodhisattva, Mahasattva all these ghost kings joined Lord Yama in the Trayastrimsha Heaven and together they stood to one side.
Then Lord Yama knelt down, placed his palms together, and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, aided by the Buddha's awesome spiritual strength and the power of Earth Store Bodhisattva, I have been able to come to this great assembly in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, with all these ghost kings and, to our benefit, join in together.
There is now a small doubt that I should like to express, and we hope the World Honored One will be compassionate and resolve it."
The Buddha told Lord Yama, "I will answer whatever you want to ask."
At that time Lord Yama looked respectfully at the World Honored One, made obeisance, turned his head to acknowledge Earth Store Bodhisattva, and then said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, I observe that Earth Store Bodhisattva uses hundreds of thousands of expedient means to take across beings who are suffering for their offenses within the Six Paths of rebirth. I see that he does so unstintingly, without the least fatigue.
Although this Great Bodhisattva uses his inconceivable spiritual penetrations to do such deeds, it doesn't take long for the beings whom he has helped in gaining release from retributions to fall again into the bad paths.
"World Honored One, since Earth Store Bodhisattva has such great inconceivable spiritual power, why are beings not able to rely on it, to stay in the good paths, and to be freed once and for all?
Please, World Honored One, explain that for us."
The Buddha told Lord Yama, "The beings of Jambudvipa have stubborn and obstinate natures, difficult to tame, difficult to subdue.
This Great Bodhisattva continually rescues such beings throughout hundreds of thousands of eons and causes them to obtain liberation quickly.
For those beings undergoing retributions even in the worst destinies, the Bodhisattva applies the strength of expedients to extricate them from their own basic karmic conditions and lead them to understand the events of their past lives.
But because beings of Jambudvipa are so bound by their own heavy bad habits, they keep revolving in and out of the various paths over and over as this Bodhisattva labors throughout many long eons to entirely effect their rescue and release.
"They are like people who in confusion, lost their way home and took a bad road by mistake. On that treacherous road were many Yakshas, tigers, wolves, lions, serpents, and vipers.
Those confused people were sure to be harmed in an instant on that dangerous path.
But then they met a knowledgeable guide, skilled in neutralizing all harm, including the toxins of the Yakshas and others.
The mentor began to guide the travelers off that road and told them, 'Beware, everyone! What business brought you onto this road? What kinds of special skills do you have to avoid all that harm?'
Hearing that, the confused travelers realized they were on a dangerous path and turned back, attempting to escape.
"The kind guide then told them to join hands, led them off the dangerous path, and helped them avoid the deadly peril. When they reached a safe path, the travelers grew happy and at peace.
Their mentor then said to them. 'Take care, confused ones, never to go back into that road again. Once on it, it is hard to get off; it can destroy a person's very nature and life.'
The travelers who had been confused expressed their deep gratitude and as they were about to part the mentor said to them, 'If you see any other travelers, whether you know them personally or not, be they men or women, tell them that the poisons and evils on that path could harm their natures and lives. Do not allow them to unwittingly bring about their own deaths.'
In the same way, Earth Store Bodhisattva, replete with great compassion, rescues beings who are suffering for their offenses and enables them to be born among humans and gods where they enjoy wonderful bliss.
"Once those offenders obtain release from the suffering they experienced in the paths where their karma took them, they should never go down those roads again.
They are like the lost people who mistakenly took a wrong road and were lead off it by a kind mentor. They now know to never take that road again.
Moreover, they exhort others not to enter that road by saying, 'We took that road ourselves when we got confused, but we escaped and now we know better than to ever enter that road again. If we were to set foot on it again, we would get confused and be unable to recognize it as the dangerous path we descended into before. That being the case, we might lose our lives.'
The same holds true for falling into the bad destinies. Due to the powerful expedient means of Earth Store Bodhisattva, beings can be freed and can gain rebirth as humans or gods.
If they were to then turn around and enter into the bad destinies again, then those with heavy karmic bonds might remain in the hells forever with no chance of escape."
At that time the Ghost King Evil Poison placed his palms together respectfully, addressed the Buddha, and said, "World Honored One, each of us countless ghost kings of Jambudvipa bestows benefit or inflicts harm on beings differently. But our karmic retributions are such that we and our followers roam in the world doing much evil and little good.
When we pass a household, a city, a town, a garden, a cottage or a hut where there are men or women who have cultivated as little as a hair's worth of good deeds, who have hung but one banner or one canopy, who have used a little incense or a few flowers as offerings to images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or who have recited the sacred Sutras or burned incense as an offering to even one sentence or gatha in them, we ghost kings will respect such people as we would the Buddhas of the past, present, and future.
We will instruct the smaller ghosts, each of whom has great power, as well as the earth spirits, to protect such people. Bad situations, accidents, severe or unexpected illnesses, and all other unwelcome events will not even come near their residences or other places they may be, much less enter the door."
The Buddha praised the ghost kings, "Excellent, excellent, that all of you ghost kings join Lord Yama in protecting good men and women in that way. I shall tell Lord Brahma and Lord Shakra to see that you are protected as well."
When that was said, a ghost king in the assembly named Lord of Life said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, my karmic conditions are such that I have jurisdiction over the lifespans of people in Jambudvipa, governing both the time of their births and their deaths.
My fundamental vows are based on a great desire to benefit them, but people do not understand my intent and go through birth and death in distress. Why is that?
"When women in Jambudvipa have just borne children, be they boys or girls, or when they are just about to give birth, good deeds should be done to increase the benefits of the household, thus causing the local earth spirits to be immeasurably pleased. The spirits will then protect the mother and child so that they experience peace and happiness; they will bring benefit to the entire family.
After the birth, all killing for the purpose of offering fresh meat to the mother should be carefully avoided, as should parties that involve consumption of alcohol, eating of meat, singing, and playing musical instruments. All those things can keep the mother and child from being peaceful and happy. Why is that?
At the difficult time of birth, uncountable evil ghosts, including mountain sprites, goblins, and spirit-beings, desire to eat the strong-smelling blood. I quickly order the local earth spirits of that household to protect the mother and child, allowing them to be peaceful and happy and to receive other benefits.
When people in such households witness those benefits, they should do meritorious deeds to express their gratitude to the earth spirits. If instead, they harm and kill, and have big parties involving feasting and entertainment, then the retributions that result from such offenses will be born by they themselves and will bring harm to the mother and child as well.
"Moreover, when people of Jambudvipa are on the verge of death, I wish to keep them from falling into the Evil Paths, regardless of whether they have done good or evil.
But how much is this power of mine to help them increased when they have personally cultivated good roots!
When those who do good in Jambudvipa are about to die, hundreds of thousands of ghosts and spirits from the Evil Paths transform themselves and appear as the parents or other relatives in an attempt to lead such people to fall into the Evil Paths.
How much more is that the case for those who have done evil deeds!
"World Honored One, when men or women in Jambudvipa are on the verge of death, their consciousnesses and spirits become confused and dark. They are unable to discriminate between good and evil, and their eyes and ears are unable to see or hear.
That is why relatives of those deceased should make generous offerings, recite the sacred Sutras, and recite the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Such good conditions can cause the deceased to leave the Evil Paths, and all the demons, ghosts, and spirits will withdraw and disperse.
"World Honored One, if at the time of death beings of any kind have an opportunity to hear the name of one Buddha or Bodhisattva or to hear a sentence or gatha of a Mahayana Sutra, I observe that such beings can quickly be freed from the pull of their accumulated minor bad deeds that would otherwise send them to the bad paths.
The exception to that is crimes involving killing that warrant Fivefold Relentless Retribution."
The Buddha told the Ghost King Lord of Life, "Because of your great compassion, you are able to make such great vows and protect all beings in the midst of life and death.
When men or women in the future undergo birth and death, do not withdraw from your vow, but liberate them all so they gain eternal peace."
The ghost king told the Buddha, "Please do not be concerned. Until the end of my life I shall in every thought protect beings of Jambudvipa both at the time of birth and at the time of death, so that they all gain tranquility. I only wish that at the time of birth and of death they will believe what I say, so that they all can be liberated and gain many benefits."
At that time the Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, "This great Ghost King Lord of Life has already passed through hundreds of thousands of lives as a ghost king, protecting beings during both birth and death. Only because of this Great Being's compassionate vows does he appear in the body of a ghost, for in reality he is not a ghost.
After one hundred seventy eons have passed, he will become a Buddha named No Appearance Thus Come One. His eon will be called Happiness, and his world will be named Pure Dwelling. That Buddha's lifespan will be incalculable eons.
Earth Store, the circumstances surrounding this great ghost king are thus. They are inconceivable, and the people and gods whom he takes across are countless."
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