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文/約翰·湯普森 加州大學/神學協會研究生 一九九五年三月十三日
by John M. Thompson Graduate Theological Union University of California at Berkeley March 3, 1995






We can see this when we look closely at the precepts themselves. For instance, the first major precept, the prohibition of killing, bases its motivation on the practice of regarding all beings as one's parents. The second major precept, the prohibition of stealing, explicitly says that in following this one must give rise to the mind of "filial compliance". Perhaps even more enlightening, though, is the twentieth minor precept regarding the liberation of all beings. In a passage echoing the first major precept, the Sutra instructs Bodhisattvas to reflect upon the fact that all beings over endless time have been their parents so that it is imperative that Bodhisattvas strive to protect and liberate them. Furthermore, the Sutra stipulates that the Bodhisattva should extend this practice to include liberating newly deceased parents and relatives by means of Dharma talks, recitations, etc. Clearly the Brahma Net Sutra weaves filial respect into the very warp and woof of Buddhist moral practice.

Another Sutra which shows the centrality of filiality to Buddhism is the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva (Dizang pusa ben yuan jing). One of the most popular devotional texts in East Asia, the Sutra narrates the Buddha's entrusting to Earth Store Bodhisattva the responsibility of "bringing over" all sentient beings. Filial respect and devotion are emphasized in this Sutra to an astounding degree. First of all, as with the Brahma Net Sutra, so this Sutra, too, is spoken out of the Buddha's own filiality: Sakyamuni Buddha preaches it in the Trayastrimsha Heaven for the benefit of his mother, who died in childbirth and so never had the chance on earth to receive the Dharma. Once more, an important teaching takes its cue from the Buddha's own devotion.

What sets this Sutra apart, though, is the focus on Earth Store Bodhisattva, a Mahasattva Bodhisattva of the tenth bhumi whose previous lives become prime examples of filial respect. In the first section, for instance, we are told the story of Earth Store Bod-hisattva's previous life as a nameless "brahman woman". Her intense devotion to her dead mother, a woman who had ridiculed and slandered the Dharma, motivates this brahman woman to worship at various temples and stupas with great intensity in order to learn of her mother's fate, and so help her. Such worship and devotion prompts the Ghost King "Poisonless" and the Buddha "Past Enlightenment Flower Samadhi Self-mastery King" to save the woman's mother from the hell in which she had fallen along with all other people destined for the same fate. In response to this saving grace, the woman takes the vow which enables her to eventually be-come the compassionate Earth Store Bodhisattva. Later in the same Sutra we hear the tale of Bright Eyes, another previous existence of Earth Store Bod-hisattva, who through offerings to an arhat and Pure-Lotus Eyes Buddha rescues her seafood-loving mother from hell. Bright Eyes then, like the earlier brahman woman, makes a Bodhisattva vow on the condition that her mother will never have low birth again. Both of these stories show filial devotion on a truly grand scale.

The Earth Store Sutra does not stop there, however. In many places it also comments upon its own effec-tiveness as a devotional text (a common characteristic of Mahayana Sutras), speaking of the benefits of such religious practices in filial terms. We hear, for exam-ple, that recitation of the text will help one's dead parents, relatives, and ancestors by "lifting" them from their "evil paths". Worship and reverence of Earth Store Bodhisattva is continually recommended in the text, and always such worship and the benefits derived therefrom are described in filial terms. So we learn that if an orphan reveres Earth Store Bod-hisattva, she/he will be able to liberate deceased rela-tives from evil destinies, help them attain sagehood quickly, or even visit them personally wherever they are. So powerful, then, is filial devotion in this text that, with the aid of the greatly filial Earth Store Bodhisattva, even death and abandonment constitute no final barriers.

To be continued


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