Om Pra Ma Ni Da Ni So Ha
(Om Pramani Dhani Svaha)
This is Ksitigabha Bodhisattva Tibetan Mantra
for Eradicating Fixed Karma.
May all living beings come to know,
practices and benefit from the sublime Dharma.
May all share the merits of this Dharma-giving and
attain the wisdom that can liberate from all suffering.
About Ksitigabha Bodhisattva …
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is one of the four principal bodhisattvas in Oriental Mahayana Buddhism. The others are Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Manjusri Bodhisattva, and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.
Between the Shakyamuni Buddha’s Maha Paranirvana and the arrival of the Maitreya Buddha, the Saha-world would exist without a Buddha. Concerned that celestial beings will have no one to turn to, Shakyamuni Buddha asked Ksitigabha Bodhisattva to use his powers to ‘ferry over’ the devas that fall into the hells. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva vowed that should any living beings not yet ‘ferried over’, he would not wish to become a Buddha, and this is one of the most touching story in Buddhism.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva during his past lives was born variously as the son of the elders, Brahman lady, king, etc. According to Longevetiy Ksitigarbha Pranidhana Sutra, in all these lives as commoners, he had always vowed to help all livings and to ‘ferry over’ all living beings from the hells. Hence, he had such a great compassionate vow, that it was called the ‘Great Vow’.
In Japan, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, known as Jizo, or Ojizo-sama as he is respectfully known, is one of the most loved of all Japanese divinities. His statues are a common sight, especially by roadsides and in graveyards. Traditionally, he is seen as the guardian of children, particularly children who died before their parents. Since the 1980s, the tendency developed in which he was worshipped as the guardian of the souls of mizuko, the souls of stillborn, miscarried or aborted fetuses.
In Japanese mythology, it is said that the souls of children who die before their parents are unable to cross the mythical Sanzu River on their way to the afterlife because they have not had the chance to accumulate enough good deeds and because they have made the parents suffer. It is believed that Jizo saves these souls from having to pile stones eternally on the bank of the river as penance, by hiding them from demons in his robe, and letting them hear mantras.
Jizo statues are usually accompanied by a little pile of stones and pebbles, put there by people in the hope that it would shorten the time children have to suffer in the underworld (the act is derived from the tradition of building stupas as an act of merit-making) . The statues can sometimes be seen wearing tiny children’s clothing or bibs, or with toys, put there by grieving parents to help their lost ones and hoping that Jizo would specially protect them. Sometimes the offerings are put there by parents to thank Jizo for saving their children from a serious illness. Jizō’s features are also commonly made more babylike in order to resemble the children he protects.
As he is seen as the saviour of souls who have to suffer in the underworld, his statues are common in cemeteries. He is also believed to be the protective deity of travellers, and roadside statues of Jizo are a common sight in Japan. Firefighters are also believed to be under the protection of Jizo.
In China, Jiuhua Mountain in Anhui is regarded as Ksitigabha’s seat. It is one of the four great Buddhist mountains of China, and at one time housed more than 300 temples. Today, 95 of these are open to the public. The mountain is a popular destination for pilgrims offering dedications to Ksitigabha.
In some areas, the admixture of traditional religions has led to Ksitigarbha being also regarded as a Taoist deity. For example, in Taiwan, followers of Buddhism, Taoism or folk religion can be found venerating Ksitigarbha, where he is often appealed to for protection against earthquakes. There, and in Hong Kong and among Overseas Chinese communities, his images are usually found in the memorial halls of Buddhist and Taoist temples.
Some Misconceptions …
Many uninformed Buddhists, Taoists, and those who believe in Chinese folk religion, see Ksitigarbha as identical with Yama, the judge of Hell, but this is a misconception.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has also often been mistaken by many uninformed Buddhists to be Xuanzang, the famous Tripitaka master of the Tang Dynasty who made the hazardous journey to the west to seek the Buddhist scriptures, and the basis for the fictional character from the Chinese novel Journey to the West. This is mainly because of the robe and the Five Buddha crown which both are seen to wear.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has a twin known as Akasagarbha Bodhisattva, the “Void Store”. Akasagarbha Bodhisattva is one of the eight great bodhisattvas. His name can be translated as “boundless space treasury” or “void store” as his wisdom is said to be boundless as space itself. In Japan he is known as Kokuzo.
Meaning of Bodhisattva …
In Buddhist thought, bodhisattva (Pali: bodhisatta; Thai: phothisat) literally means “enlightened (bodhi) existence (sattva)” in Sanskrit.
Those who call themselves bodhisattvas are motivated by the wish to benefit other “existences” and to lead them to enlightenment.
The Mahayana encourages everyone to become bodhisattvas and to take the bodhisattva vows. With these vows, one makes the promise to work for the complete enlightenment of all sentient beings.
According to the Theravada tradition however, being a bodhisattva and becoming a fully enlightened Buddha (Sanskrit: Samyaksambuddha) is not possible for the vast majority of beings, so their common path to follow is to strive for becoming an Arhat (liberated from the sufferings of the cycle of rebirths).
The 10 Bodhisattva Grounds
- Great Joy
- It is said that being close to enlightenment and seeing the benefit for all sentient beings, one achieves great joy, hence the name. In this bhumi the bodhisattvas practice all virtues (paramita), but especially emphasizing generosity (dana).
- In accomplishing the second bhumi, the bodhisattva is free from the stains of immorality, therefore, this bhumi is named ‘Stainless’. The emphasized virtue is moral discipline (śila).
- The third bhumi is named ‘Radiant’, because, for a bodhisattva who accomplishes this bhumi, the light of Dharma is said to radiate from the bodhisattva for others. The emphasized virtue is patience (ksanti)
- This bhumi is called ‘luminous’, because it is said to be like a radiating light that fully burns that which opposes enlightenment. The emphasized virtue is vigor (virya).
- Very difficult to train
- Bodhisattvas who attain this bhumi strive to help sentient beings attain maturity, and do not become emotionally involved when such beings respond negatively, both of which are difficult to do. The emphasized virtue is meditative concentration (dhyana).
- Obviously Transcendent
- “By depending on the perfection of wisdom awareness, he [the bodhisattva] does not abide in either samsara or nirvana, so it is ‘obviously transcendent'”. The emphasized virtue is wisdom (prajna).
- Gone afar
- Particular emphasis is on the perfection of skilful means, or upaya-kaushalya, to help others.
- The emphasized virtue is aspiration.
- This, the ‘Immovable’ bhumi, is the bhumi at which one becomes able to choose his place of rebirth.
- Good Discriminating Wisdom
- The emphasized virtue is power.
- Cloud of dharma
- The emphasized virtue is the practice of primordial wisdom.
- The emphasized virtue is the practice of primordial wisdom.
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Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is often referred to as the Bodhisattva of the Hell beings because of his vow to not achieve Buddhahood until “all the Hells are empty”. However, his vow actually encompasses all sentient beings, being similar to that of Living Buddha Lien-Shen.
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