Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra
--Translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ching
At that time Sakyamuni Buddha said to the Bodhisattva Manjusri, son of the Dharma King, “As you regard these Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits from this and other worlds, who are now assembled in the Trayastrimsa Heaven, do you know their number?”
Manjusri said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, even if I were to measure and reckon with my spiritual penetrations for a thousand aeons, I would not be able to calculate it.”
The Buddha told Manjusri, “As I regard them with my Buddha eye, their number cannot be exhausted. Throughout many aeons all these beings have been crossed over, are being crossed over, will be crossed over, have been brought to accomplishment, are being brought to accomplishment, or will be brought to accomplishment, by Earth Store Bodhisattva.”
The great ghost kings mentioned previously are called kings because they lead the ghosts, and regardless of whether they seem beneficial or malevolent, they are all transformations of great Bodhisattvas. In the past these ghost kings vowed to use expedient devices to benefit living beings. Some use compassion to protect their followers while others manifest a fierce appearance to subdue them. These two methods, protection and subduing, are the two major divisions in the methodology of teaching beings. Since some resolve their thoughts on enlightenment when they see a ghost of great compassion, the method of compassionate protection is practiced to teach them; because others will only resolve their thoughts on enlightenment after meeting a terrifying ghost, the method of subduing is used.
In either case, the method used is not a question of good or evil on the part of the ghosts themselves, because good and evil come only from the karmic responses of living beings. When a being's bad karma ripens, it may encounter someone like the Ghost King with Evil Eyes; when it's good karma ripens; it may meet the Great Compassionate Ghost King. Any karma may, of course, be changed when it has ripened—bad karma may become good, and sometimes-good karma turns bad. Students of the Buddhadharma should learn not to be turned by either good or bad karma, but should strive to turn bad into good and not allow themselves to go down the road which leads to the mountain of knives, the cauldron of oil, and the tree of swords. They should study Buddhadharma, upset heaven and smash through earth. Heaven represents good causes, earth bad ones. Turn the bad to good and the evil ghost kings will be of no use while the good ones will get to retire.
Manjusri, the Bodhisaliva "to whom the Buddha puts his question, is also known as Wonderful Virtue or Wonderful Luck because of ten miraculous signs which occurred at his birth: light filled the room; all bottles were filled with sweet dew; the seven precious things welled up from the earth; the treasure within the earth was revealed; chickens gave birth to phoenixes; pigs gave birth to dragons; horses gave birth to unicorns; cows gave birth to white tsai, a serpent-like animal with two bodies and one head; the grain in the granaries turned to gold; elephants appeared with six tusks.
The Bodhisattva Manjusri is not, however, a Bodhisattva. Long ago he became a Buddha named Superior Venerable Dragon-Seed King, and in addition he is also currently the Buddha Happy Store-Accumulation of Muni Gems, who dwells in a northern world called Happy. Although he has been a Buddha for a long time, he is a great compassionate rescuer who manifests the small while hiding the great away. Thus he appears as the Bodhisattva Manjusri.
Manjusri Bodhisattva is as explained in my commentary to the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra, the spiritual grandfather of Sakyamuni Buddha. Sun Moon Lamp Brilliance Buddha, the last of the twenty thousand Buddhas, had eight sons, the last of whom was the Buddha Dipankara, "Burning Lamp," whose teacher was the Dharma Master Wonderful Light and who bestowed the prediction of Buddhahood on Sakyamuni Buddha. That Dharma Master, Wonderful Light, is now the Bodhisattva Manjusri who, consequently, is the master of Burning Lamp Buddha. Since Sakyamuni Buddha is the disciple of Burning Lamp Buddha, the Bodhisattva Manjusri is his spiritual grandfather and has greater seniority. Nonetheless, when Sakyamuni Buddha appeared in the world, Manjusri Bodhisattva came to be his disciple. Just think, for a moment, about the state of such a Bodhisattva, devoid of high, low, up, down, big or little. As it says in the Diamond Sutra, "This Dharma is equal and there is no high or low therein."
Perhaps within this very assembly there are those who were my teachers in past lives; perhaps there are those who were my disciples. It may be that among you there is someone who will study the Way, develop great virtue, and become a Buddha very soon. Perhaps I shall then bow to that person as my own master, for there is nothing fixed in the Buddhadharma.
Manjusri is called "Wonderful Virtue” and "Wonderful Luck," and the wonder lies in simply understanding that apart from all appearances are all dharmas. If there is no such understanding, attachments arise. If nothing is done, there is a falling into emptiness. What, in the final analysis, is to be done? You'll have to find the answer to that one yourself.
My explanations are often like this, just carefree talking in which I say whatever I think. Sometimes when I talk I break through heaven; sometimes the earth quakes, but I don't care if the one topples and the other collapses, for there is really nothing at all. All dharmas are devoid of a mark of self, others, living beings or life. How can the Buddhadharma flourish, how can it decay? Where is there a proper Dharma and where a Dharma ending age? There is none of this; everything is false. You may very well object that the more I speak the more confused you become; that is just why I do it, for if you understood, who would pay attention to sutra explanations?
The Buddha eye is one of the Five Eyes, which are explained, in the following gatha:
The heavenly eye penetrates what is without obstruction;
The fleshly eye sees obstacles and does not penetrate.
The Dharma eye can contemplate only the relative truth;
The wisdom eye can contemplate and know true emptiness,
While the Buddha eye blazes forth like a thousand suns.
Although the five eyes' functions differ their substance is of one source.
Of the Five Eyes, the heavenly eye can penetrate through things. The flesh eye, on the other, hand, can only see people and objects, and cannot see through them. These two eyes are located on either side of the forehead, one on each side. There is no need to mention which is on which side at the moment, since when a cultivator opens them, he will know which is which. With the fleshly everything which has a physical form can be seen, no matter how far away it may be; all one has to do is take a look. If no looking is done, of course, nothing is seen.
Even though one may be able "to use this power, it is better not to do so, for whenever things are looked at, a thought is spent, and adding a thought is not as good as diminishing one. To use the Five Eyes is to indulge in thought, and although such thoughts differ from ordinary ones, they are still not beneficial. It is always better to have one false thought less than to have one more.
The Dharma eye contemplates the common truth, which is also called the conventional, relative, truth, or wonderful existence. If this eye is opened, there is no need to use books in order to read Sutras, since the entire extent of space is seen to be full of limitless Dharma treasures.
The wisdom eye contemplates the true, the absolute truth, which is also known as true emptiness and the truth of falseness since it shows that everything is unreal. The real mark of all dharma s falls within the vision of the Buddha eye.
The Buddha eye, blazing like a thousand suns, can see, know, and even hear everything. Although these Five Eyes differ in what they see, they basically are of common substance.
The term accomplishment may be described in two ways. The first accords with the literal meanings of the Chinese characters composing the term, "become flourishing." The second description of "accomplishment" is derived from the first. Since to “become flourishing,” means to become high, lofty, and expansive, it also connotes the idea of the emperor. Ancient emperors regulated their empires by means of filial piety, and thus they accomplished the ultimate virtue. Only the emperor was allowed to ascribe word "filial" to himself. The two terms, accomplishment and filial piety are related in the emperor's achievement, which is one major theme of this Sutra, the "accomplishment" of ultimate virtue by means of "filial piety."
Earth Store Bodhisattva has aided beings to become accomplished, to plant good roots, and he now helps beings who have planted good roots to mature them and make them grow. Those good roots, which have ripened, he harvests so the beings might obtain liberation.
Manjusri said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, throughout many aeons I have cultivate good roots and certified to unobstructed wisdom. When I hear what the Buddha says, I immediately accept it with faith. Sound Hearers of small attainment, gods, dragons, and the remainder of the Eight-fold Division, as well as other living beings in the future, may hear the Thu Come One’s sincere and actual words, but will certainly harbor doubts. They may receive the teaching most respectfully, but will be unable to avoid slandering it. World Honored One, please discuss the conduct of Earth Store Bodhisattva while he was on the causal ground, and tell about the vows, he made which have enabled him to accomplish such and inconceivable task.”
Unobstructed wisdom is another term for the Four Unobstructed Eloquences: unobstructed eloquence of dharma; unobstructed eloquence of principle, in which hundreds of millions of principles may be spoken and then returned to one; unobstructed eloquence in phrasing, in which every word carries principle; and unobstructed eloquence of delight in speech.
Those who hear and harbor doubts are not unlike those in the current situation in the West, who are among the very few people who have the opportunity to encounter the genuine teaching of Buddhism. When they do meet it, it is not certain that they will recognize it. If someone who has never seen gold before gets some, he may mistake it for copper; those who have never seen diamonds may well take them for glass. When actual principle is explained, many will merely think it to be an external display. If the outside is not understood, how can one know the inside, since the two are a pair? If there is no inner understanding, there cannot be any outer practice, since these two too are a pair. If there is understanding of the principles of Buddhadharma, there can be cultivation in accord.
Even while the Buddha was in the world, Manjusri Bodhisattva brought up the fact that many beings would receive the teaching respectfully, but due to their wrong thinking, they would be unable to understand it and end up slandering it.
The term “causal ground" simply means past lives, the times in which the causes leading to a result were planted. Whenever anyone makes a vow, he should be sure to act in accord with his resolve no matter how difficult that may be.
The Buddha said to Manjusri, “By way of analogy, it is as if all the grasses, trees, forests, hemp, bamboo, reeds, mountains, rocks and motes of dust in the world system of a million worlds were enumerated, and each one made into a Ganges river, while within each Ganges river each grain of sand became a world and within each world each mote of dust was an aeon. Increase this sum of time a thousand-fold and know how long Earth Store Bodhi saliva has remained on the position of the tenth ground. How much longer did he dwell on the grounds of Sound Hearer and Pratyekabuddha."
The ten grounds are known by the following names:
1. Dry wisdom, or the ground of happiness;
2. The ground of leaving defilement;
3. The ground of emitting light;
4. The ground of flaming wisdom;
5. The ground of being difficult to overcome;
6. The ground of manifestation;
7. The ground of far traveling;
8. The unmoving ground;
9. The ground of good wisdom; and
10. The Dharma cloud ground.
“Manjusri, the awesome spirit and vows of this Bodhisattva are beyond thought. If good men or women in the future hear this Bodhisattva's name, praise him, regard and worship him, make offerings to him, or if they draw, carve, cast, sculpt, or lacquer his image, they will be born among the Heaven of the Thirty-three one hundred times, and will never again fall into the evil paths."
Since he made the vow, "When ail the hells are emptied will I become a Buddha; when living beings have all been saved will I attain to Bodhi," Earth Store has used his awesome spirit to subdue living beings who have accumulated bad karma. He has thus passed through an unthinkably long time, yet has still not realized Buddhahood, because after one being has been taken across, there is yet another ready to go, and after that one, still another.
There is no one-to-one correlation between the number of beings born and those entering nirvana, since those who are born outnumber those who attain nirvana by tens of hundreds of millions of times. The same relationship even exists in the realm of birth and death; the number of births in any given period are greater than the deaths in the same time. Those who are to die have to grow old, and pass through an entire life before that happens, but those who are waiting to be born only have to spend nine months in the womb. Since birth is such a rapid process, the number of those born outnumbers the dying at any given moment by a great deal. For this reason Earth Store Bodhisattva has not yet become a Buddha. He does not, however, have any regrets about his vow, and the more living beings there are to rescue, the more he has to do. If there were no living beings, there would be no work, and if there were no work, he would become a Buddha, since Buddhas have nothing left to do. When there actually isn't anything to do. Earth Store Bodhisattva goes looking for work; although he could remain quiet and at leisure, he continues to busy himself over living beings because of the power of his vows.
There is no way that we can imagine the strength of such vows. What has been mentioned herein is only the smallest part of their greatness, for indeed, there is no way they can ever be fully discussed. On hearing of these vows, people ought to consider their own behavior. If you find that you have vowed to rescue even one or two people, then you have not been studying this Sutra in vain, but if you say that Bodhisattvas are Bodhisattvas and we people are quite another matter, you might as well never have studied a single word of it.
Don't let your motto be, "Amitabha Buddha, every man for himself; Mahasattva don't worry about others." If you have a girl friend or boy friend, vow to cross him over. If you're too young to have such people to rescue, then you must still be close to your parents, and you can save them. Even if you are an orphan, you still have siblings or friends. Vow to see ail of them over to Buddhahood. I, for example, have vowed that as long as any of my disciples do not become Buddhas, I, too, will not become one. This, of course, applies to those who have taken refuge and who believe. If such a one falls into the hells, I shall go there to rescue him; and so, while my vows are not as great as those of Earth Store Bodhisattva, they are not too small.Whenever we make prostrations before the images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas; when we recite their names, as, for example, when we recite Namo Earth Store Bodhisattva of Great Vows; when we explain the sutras such as this one which describes the inconceivable qualities of a Bodhisattva; or when we place flowers, fruits, and incense before his image; we are regarding and worshipping, reciting the name, praising, and making offerings.
Those who know how to draw or paint can draw Buddha images and thereby enhance their own appearance. With every image, their appearance will improve. Those who wish to perfect the Thirty-two Marks and Eighty minor characteristics may do so by making images. Every one adds to the perfection of the features, and finally, after hundreds of thousands of millions have been made, the full set of Thirty-two Marks and Eighty Minor Characteristics will be achieved. Anyone who wishes to be handsome should make images, painted, sculpted, carved or whatever. It says that those who cultivate this dharma will be born one hundred times in the Heaven of the Thirty-three. This means that they will be born throughout all of the Six Desire Heavens, the Heavens of the Realm of Form, and the Formless Realm, all of which were discussed earlier. After each birth they will again be born among the Heaven of the Thirty-three, and will never again fall into the evil paths.