The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva

Translated by Bhiksu Heng Ching
Continued from issue #55





The name of this great earth spirit is "Firm and Solid," for that is a primary attribute of the earth.  Living beings are to the earth as ants are to a great ocean-going vessel; although they may run hither and yon across its surface, they are unable to move it at all.  Just as a liner moves through the sea, so too does our planet move through space.                 

Earth spirits are very numerous.  In the Agama Sutra the foremost among them, Firm and Solid, appeared before the Buddha, took a haughty and arrogant stance, and blustered that there were no spirits besides her; she alone was the supreme spirit.  She was rather upset to hear the Buddha explain that there were also water and fire spirits as well as earth spirits.  When she finally heard the Buddha speak Dharma, she lost her haughtiness and took refuge with the Triple Jewel.  Just as the four elemental spirits exist in space, so do the four elements exist within the body of living beings.

The term 'earth' was explained earlier in the Sutra.  Now, it will be explained in another way, this time in terms of the four qualities of Nirvana, permanence, happiness, purity, and true-self.  Because of the Dharma door of prajna-paramita, the earth is unchanging, and so can be called permanent; because it supports the ten thousand things it can be said to have the virtues of happiness.  The earth gives birth to and supports all things, and since they are pure at birth, it has the virtue of purity; the earth is independent and self-sufficient, and can thus be said to have the virtues of true self. 

In this chapter, the spirit of the earth makes a vow to protect those who recite this Sutra and the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva.


    At that time the earth spirit Firm and Secure spoke to the Buddha and said, “World Honored One, from long ago I have personally beheld and paid homage to limitless Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, all of whom have inconceivable and great spiritual penetrations and wisdom, and all of whom cross over many living beings.  Among all the Bodhisattvas, Earth Store Bodhisattva, Mahasattva, has the deepest and most weighty vows.  World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has great affinity with beings in Jambudvipa.  Manjusri, Samantabhadra, Avalokitesvara, and Maitreya also transform hundreds of thousands of bodies to cross over those in the six paths, but their vows have an end.  Earth Store Bodhisattva has made these vows to teach living beings in the six paths throughout aeons as many as the number of sand-grains in hundreds of thousands of myriads of Ganges Rivers.

    “World Honored One, as I regard the living beings of the present and future, I see those who make shrines of earth, stone, bamboo or wood, and set them in pure places in the southern part of their dwellings.  They place within the shrines an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva, either carved, painted or made of gold, silver, copper or iron.  They then burn incense and make offerings, worship and praise him.  By doing these things they will receive ten kinds of advantages and benefits."


    The practice of gazing at the image of a Buddha or Bodhisattva can be likened to men and women who sometimes like to stare at each other for a long time without a break. The gazing between men and women, however, is impure since it is based on desire.  When gazing at a Buddha, all desire has been transformed into wisdom.  Such long gazing is pure, natural, arises spontaneously, and is constantly practiced.  One may look at an image, look at it again, and again, and finally end up gazing himself into Buddhahood.


    "What are these ten?  Their lands will be fertile; their families and homes will be peaceful; their ancestors will be born in the heavens; they will have benefit and longevity in their present life; what they seek will be as they will; they will escape the disasters of water and fire; they will escape other calamities; their nightmares will cease; they will be protected by spirits in all their comings and goings; and they will encounter many causes of sagehood.


Those who worship Earth Store will have fertile lands, and whatever they plant will bring forth-abundant harvest.  A good harvest, however, is of no major interest if there is no peaceful home in which to enjoy it, and so the second of the ten benefits is the peace and happiness of the home.  In addition to these benefits, those members of the household, as well as other relatives who have died will be able to be born in the heavens, all as a result of having survivors who gaze at and worship Earth Store Bodhisattva.

It may be objected that there is no way to verify these rebirths in the heavens.  If you cultivate and work hard, you will attain the penetration of the heavenly eye and can take a look into the heavens for yourself.  In any case, the next of the ten benefits is something, which can be seen, prolonged life spans.  I had a disciple in Hong Kong who consulted the oracle of the Book of Changes when he was seventy-nine years old.  He found he was due to die in that year, and was frightened.  When he asked me to allow him to take refuge, he also asked to have another ten years of life.  I agreed. I told him that if he would strictly obey my instructions and act in accordance with the teachings, I would promise him another twelve years.  He did this, and although there was no way to know if my words were true or false, he lived until the age of ninety-two.

All of the above benefits affect others; the fifth of these promises that one's own wishes will be fulfilled.  If you wish to obtain a good spouse, it will happen, if you have left home and wish to be a good bhiksu or bhiksuni, that will occur as well.  Of course, it is best not to have any desire for these results, but if you do, they will come about.

The sixth benefit insures freedom from being drowned or burned.  Earlier, when discussing the four elemental spirits, I neglected to mention their appearances, but now, since I notice that the fire spirit has come to join us, I'll describe them to you.  The fire spirit is like a great one-legged red birds who runs away as soon as his name.  Fang Mien, is called.  The water spirit, named Wang Hsiang, looks like a little boy with red eyes and very long ears, which droop to the ground.  Although it is very difficult to encounter such spirits, if you do, and if you can catch and eat him, you can become a water spirit yourself.

The seventh of the ten benefits, which accrue to those who worship Earth Store Bodhisattva, is freedom from calamities and unexpected accidents.  The eighth is that all nightmares will cease. Sometimes people have dreams and wake up to find that they are immobilized by a large heavy creature who keeps them from moving or speaking.  Those who have this sort of problem, caused by ghosts called Nightmare ghosts, or kumbhandas, will not have them again after they cultivate the worship of Earth Store Bodhisattva.

The ninth benefit is that they will always be protected by spirits in whatever they do.  If, for example, they are in an automobile accident and manage to escape without a scratch, it is because of such protection.  The tenth of the benefits insures them that they will encounter many causes of sagehood.  This includes having opportunities to hear lectures on Sutras and to practice cultivation.


"World Honored One, living beings of the present and future will obtain these advantages and benefits if they can construct a place of worship and make offerings in their homes.”

Firm and Secure continued to speak to the Buddha, "World Honored One, if good men or women in the future keep this Sutra and an image of the Bodhisattva in their homes, and if in addition they recite the Sutra and make offerings to the Bodhisattva, I shall use my spiritual powers to surround and protect them day and night so that all threat of floods, fire, robbery, and theft, great calamities and small accidents, will be eradicated.”

      The Buddha told the earth spirit Firm and Secure, "There are few spirits who can match the great spiritual power which you posses.  Why? All the lands in Jambudvipa receive your protection; all the grasses, woods, sands, stones, paddyfields, hemp, bamboo, reeds, grains, rice and gems come forth from the ground because of your power.  Moreover your constant praise of the beneficial deeds of Earth Store Bodhisattva makes your meritorious virtues and spiritual penetrations hundreds of thousands of times that of ordinary earth spirits.

"If good men or women in the future make offerings to this Bodhisattva, or recite and rely upon the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva in their cultivation, you should use your spiritual power to protect them and not allow disastrous or unwelcome affairs to even be heard by them, how much the less undergone.  Not only will you protect those people, but Brahma, Sakra and their retinues as well as the retinues of all the other gods shall also protect them.  Why will they obtain protection from worthies and sages such as these?  They obtain such great protection from having beheld and worshipped the image of Earth Store Bodhisattva, and from having recited this Sutra of his past vows.  They shall naturally leave the sea of suffering, and certify to the bliss of Nirvana."




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 Great Good Luck Cloud Ray, the Ten Thousand Wheeled Ray, the Great Ten 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 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 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 life.

The light rays, which illumined 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 make a great effort in explaining, lecturing, printing and circulating this Sutra.

Printing and circulating sutras is a beneficial cause, which leads to developing wisdom.  Now that there are so few sutras and commentaries 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 is the falling of the Dharma rain.

The names of the various rays of light indicate what they 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 spoke 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 eight-fold division of ghosts and spirits, and to humans, non-humans 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 sagehood, 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 manifests as limitless and unbounded dharmas. Although so many dharmas appear, they eventually return to one, and so it is said, "One root disperses to a 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 also eight types of sound:

1. The Ultimately Good Sound.  The sound of the Buddha's voice is devoid of all the rasping harsh qualities so often found among people.  It is a harmonious sound, and the more one hears it the more he wishes to continue doing so.

2. The Gentle Sound.  This sound is like the soft sound of a flowing brook and it far surpasses the sound of music.

3. The Harmonious Sound.

4. The Venerable and Wise Sound.  The Buddha's voice is such that we need not even mention listening to his words, just hearing his sound is sufficient to lead to the development of wisdom.

5. The Non-Yin Sound.  This is the "yin" which occurs in the compound yin and yang. Yin represents the passive, negative, feminine, earthy, and so forth.  Yang represents the active, positive, masculine, heavenly and so forth.  Many people's voices show yin qualities, such as a high and delicate timbre.  When the Buddha speaks there is no such quality in his sound.

6. The Non-Misleading Sound.  Everything the Buddha says is right and proper.  There is never any need to fear that he is telling jokes or misleading people.

7. The Far-Reaching Sound.  The Buddha's disciple Mahamaudgalyayana, foremost in spiritual powers, once passed through limitless millions of Buddha-lands to the east in order to find out where the Buddha's voice stopped.  No matter how far he traveled, the voice was still just as if the Buddha were at his ear.

8. The Inexhaustible Sound.  The sound of the Buddha's voice can never be cut off.

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 occurs 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 Bodhisattvas 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 on 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 which 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 conditions, are surpassed by the enlightenment of the Bodhisattvas. The enlightenment of the Bodhisattvas is said to be proper 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, Proper 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 folk.  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 possessed of great compassion and pities living beings who suffer for their offenses.  In thousands of tens of thousands of millions of transformation 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, they still could not be fathomed.  We have received the World Honored One’s instruction as to the great benefit and advantages of praising 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 eight-fold 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 accruing from worshipping 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, which 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.


      "I have heard the World Honored One tell the great assembly about the benefits of Earth Store Bodhisattva.  I hope that the World Honored One will discuss the inconceivable matters regarding Earth Store Bodhisattva so as to cause gods, dragons and others of the eight-fold division of ghosts and spirits in the present and future to obtain the blessings derived from gazing on and worshipping him."

"The Buddha replied to the Bodhisattva Contemplator of the World's Sound's, "You have great affinity with the Saha World.  If gods, dragons, men, women, spirits, ghosts, or any other being who suffers for offences within the six paths hears your name, sees your image, fixes his gaze on you or praises you, they will become irreversible from 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 predictions.  You now have great compassion and pity for the living beings, for gods, dragons, and the others of the eight-fold division.  Listen as I proclaim the inconceivable beneficences 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 words of the 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 once bow 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 the more so 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 to mark the imminent fall of a god. There are three recensions of this list of signs, one giving five major signs, one five minor signs, and one giving seven signs. These lists are as follows:

1. The ever-fresh flower headdresses of the gods begin to wilt.

2. The permanently clean clothes of the gods become soiled.

3. The gods never sweat, but when signs of their decay occur, their armpits break out in moisture.

4. The normally fragrant bodies of the gods begin to stink when the signs of decay appear.

5. The gods normally sit still and composed as if in samadhi.  When the signs of decay appear they begin fidgeting.  Once these signs have occurred, the gods fall and may be reborn as humans, ghosts, animals, hell dwellers and so forth.

In addition to the five major signs of decay, there are five minor signs, which are as follow:

1. The subtle voices of the gods become coarse.

2. The shining light of their bodies fades.

3. Their bodies usually repel water like glass.  When the signs of decay appear they become soaked by rain.

4. They become unable to renounce states and become strongly attached to them.

5. They become weak and devoid of energy.  At this time their eyes, which normally remain fairly steady, begin to flit about.

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 shall be treated as such here.

1. The light of the gods is extinguished.

2. Their flowers fade.

3. Their beautiful form changes and they become unattractive.

4. Their clothing catches dust.

5. Their armpits sweat.

6. Their bodies get thin.

7. They cannot remain still in their seats.  If, when these signs of decay manifest, the gods are able to worship Earth Store Bodhisattva, their blessings will not only continue but also increase.

Continued below



Continued from above


    "Moreover, if living beings in the 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 ways.  How much the 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 life span 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 offense obstacles will be eradicated.

Continued below


The major Mahayana scriptures are explained every day at Gold Mountain Monastery.  At the present time an Avatamsaka assembly, rare because of the vast scope of this Sutra, is in progress.  The king of Sutras containing the complete expression of the ultimate enlightenment of Buddhahood is being explained at seven weekly lectures.  Nights at 7:00 and weekends at 12:30 and 7:00 P.M.  There is no charge for lectures on the Dharma; the public is welcome to attend.

Continued from above

    "Moreover, Contemplator of the World’s Sounds, in the future a man or woman may lose his father, mother, brothers, or sisters while he himself is still an infant of three, five or under ten years.  When fully grown he may think of these parents and relatives, but does not know into what path, world or in what 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 and worship him and if he can continue to do so from one through seven days, constantly hearing his name, seeing his image, beholding, worshipping 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 fall into evil paths, they will quickly be reborn in the heavens where they will receive supremely wonderful bliss.  This results from 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 worshipped it.
     If that person's relatives have already been born in the heavens on the strength of their own merit, and are already receiving supremely wonderful bliss, upon receiving this additional merit their causes for sagehood will increase and they will receive limitless bliss.  If that person is able to behold and worship Earth Store Bodhisattva’s image singe-mindedly during three weeks, reciting his name a full ten thousand times, the Bodhisattva may manifest a limitless body and tell that person in what world 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 being, 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 of sickness or the like.  No accidents will enter his door, much less affect his person
Finally the Bodhisattva will rub his crown and bestow a prediction 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 he 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 at and worship, make offerings to, and praise the image of Earth Store Bodhisattva.  Their wishes and seekings will certainly be realized.  Moreover, they may request Earth Store Bodhisattva, the Compassionate One, to eternally protect them.  In a dream the Bodhisattva will rub their crowns and bestow predictions.

    "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 clear master who instructs them so that they may become familiar with the texts.  But as soon as they obtain them, they then forget them. Throughout months and years they may remain unable 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 in their minds 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 five pungent plants, wine, meat, sexual activity and false speech, as well as all killing, and harming, for from 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 pass by their ear 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 manifest 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, which even include playthings.  This refers to all sorts of toys such as the balls children play with.  Don't think, however, that the Bodhisattva likes to make use of toys to play with.  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, which includes everything in the category of garlic, onions, shallots, chives, and leeks.  These items are forbidden because they tend to increase torpor, stupidity, 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, crossover rivers, seas, and the great waters or pass through dangerous roads for their own livelihood, 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:

"Earth Store Bodhisattva’s spiritual strength
Can’t 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, god’s or if a dragon's
Retribution ends he should fall
To evil ways, but returns sincerely, trusts
Upon this Lord, his lifespan will increase
And his offenses will be wiped away
Those who have lost their parent’s 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 in worship at him and never pause
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 these states of woe behind
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 won’t bind him 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
And leave delusion, reach 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 won’t 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
And sincerely gaze in worship on this Lord,
Their bitter sorrows will be wiped away
With sufficient food and clothes, and dreams at peace
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 vexations--
Should gaze in worship and make offerings
To Earth Store Bodhisattva’s form
Within the mountain forests, on the seas
The evil multitudes will disappear
You who listen, 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 you who listen,
Quickly learn this Sutra, spread it through worlds
More numerous that Ganges River’s sands

To be continued



A General Explanation of the Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra. The Sutra that enlightened the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng.  Dhyana Master Hua explains the core concepts of emptiness, non-dwelling, and non-attachment in a clear and direct commentary that speaks right to the practice and describes the methods for realizing Buddhism's highest goal.  Paperbound, 192 pp. $10.00.