Selected Accounts of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Spiritual Inspiration
SELECTED BY THE ELECTRONIC BUDDHADARMA SOCIETY
TRANSLATED BY ERIC GOODELL
Editor's note: In this edition, we have assembled a collection of accounts of spiritual inspiration involving Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. It is divided into two major sections, modern, and pre-19th century, with a total of 61 individual accounts. This is section 1.
Section I. 19th century to present
These accounts, 32 in all, were taken from A Universal Appeal for Pure Land Buddhists to Recite the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra, and from the following two sections of Records and Spiritual Inspiration of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva: by Rev. Xin Ran: "First-hand Accounts of Spiritual Inspiration by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva", and "Accounts of modern Spiritual Inspiration by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva". Here is a translation of 13 accounts.
(1) The Story of the Grace Given to Me by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
by Xin Ran
In the summer of 1946, I was attending the Leng Yan Buddhist Academy in Shanghai. One night, as a result of staying up too late, I came down with a serious cold. Although I got treatment at the hospital, my cold soon developed into a chronic, serious cough. I would go into coughing fits several times an hour, each time coughing until I almost choked. I threw up every time I tried to take some medicine. Injections had no effect. All three of my daily meals consisted of the liquid portion of rice gruel. I wasn't able to eat anything else. Also, I would toss and turn every night with insomnia. It was a time of great pain and suffering.
My classmates were planning to make a pilgrimage to Mt. Jiuhua during summer vacation to see the holy place of worshipping of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. I thought to myself: sacrificing myself while on this pilgrimage to worship Bodhisattva would be immeasurably more meaningful than letting this useless body of mine die here in Shanghai. Thus I decided to join the ranks of my classmates in their journey to Mt. Jiuhua.
Once on the road, I tried to muster my strength, but it still took an enormous effort just to keep up with my classmates since my body was so weak. Fortunately, we spent most of the time traveling in boats and vehicles; otherwise I would not have been able to go at all.
En route, we took trains and buses through Nanjing and Wuhu; we took boats and cargo ships to Datong and Qingcheng. Throughout the journey we endured rough roads and the hot sun. The trip was tiring, but we never spent extra time anywhere to rest. Throughout the entire trip, I was repeating to myself the holy name Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, with absolute perseverance. We were advancing along our route, slowly but surely, and since we were approaching the Bodhisattva's holy ground I sensed that courage and even joy were gradually building within me! Although I had nothing more to eat each day than a few glasses of evaporated milk, I could feel a happiness arising in my mind and body which enabled me to carry on.
At one point we were on a cargo boat making its way through the breakers on the Yangtze River. All the passengers were exhausted and ready to fall asleep. Suddenly I was able to make out the figure of an ascetic who approached me, and said, "Do not be anxious about your cough; just eat a lot of watermelon and other cooling foods; it will cure itself." Then he disappeared. Shortly thereafter, there seemed to appear before me a luscious piece of watermelon which I couldn't help but reach for. A feeling of relief came over my body when I took a bite, and it tasted better than any watermelon I had ever eaten. Then, I was awakened by the sound of my own snoring. I opened my eyes to see that my classmates happened to be eating watermelon. I naturally started eating just as in the dream. That night I slept much better than normal, and the next day, my cough was much better. In the days that followed, I fearlessly ate a lot of cooling foods. What had happened was truly a miracle.
Going from Datong to Qingcheng, we had to navigate numerous tributaries of the Yangtze, following a long and tortuous route. At one point while traveling in a boat, my classmates helped out the boatsmen by rowing with bamboo oars that they had made themselves, which made the boat seem to fly across the water. The only portion of our trip over "dry" ground was exceedingly difficult due to the fact that it was across a very muddy field. Added to that was the fact that my classmates had to carry my ailing body, making their trek through the mud even slower. I had become a great burden.
As a result, after arriving at a monastery in Qingcheng that evening, I had another fierce coughing fit. That night, several classmates who were concerned about me prayed to Bodhisattva and drew a qian stick1 for me. Then they read it to me:
Meeting wild winds on the great sea,
Huge waves striking the ship,
The ship's body is iron once again.
It does not sink, but the soul is frightened.
As I read the words on the stick myself, I suddenly came to an enlightened understanding. I explained to them: "Throughout the whole trip, I have been constantly recalling the holy name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, which gave rise to powerful determination in me! Although I look dangerously ill, my self-confidence is as strong as an armored battleship. I will be all right. Please do not worry."
As expected, my coughing stopped completely late that night. The next morning, my stomach was growling from hunger, so I ate two bowls of rice porridge before I was full. Consequently, I became quite a bit stronger. Later, we left Qingcheng for Mt. Jiuhua, a 20-mile trip through the mountains. The second miracle was that I could follow not too far behind my classmates during the whole trip.
Our travels at Mt. Jiuhua and the surrounding mountains took us to the following sights: the magnificent Longan Monastery; Ersheng and Yisu Monasteries; Xiaoqiao'an Monastery, with its undisturbed scenic vistas; Daqiao'an Monastery, with the relics of a monk who had become a Bodhisattva in his lifetime; Ganlou Monastery, hidden amongst the green bamboo, which contains complete collections of sutras from the Tang and Song dynasties; Banxiao Pavilion, where there is always a cool breeze and the smell of tea permeates everywhere. At each of these sites we all looked around and worshipped. Although we had it in our hearts to enjoy the scenery, we were on a tight schedule, so we missed out on the opportunity to become overly sentimental and poetical about the trip. Our last stop was at Zhiyuan Monastery. They happened to be in the middle of a several day-long period of services and sutra lessons, so we lodged there, in the Baisui Hall. By this time, the frequency of my daytime coughing had been reduced to only a few times an hour.
It was our first time to stay at such holy places. Everyone was very happy and talked expressively. We enjoyed the guestmaster's cordial and considerate hospitality, so much so that I slept past sunrise. By the time I got up, my classmates had already gone off in groups to worship at the various holy sites.
Since I had successfully taken the arduous trip, and had no reason to become the only one desiring to cure an illness, I decided to pack up my clothes and other belongings, and starting at Huacheng Monastery, I did one prostration per step, heading towards the reliquary pagoda of Bodhisattva on the Shen Guang Hill. During my prostrations, I thought about the devout spirit of the old practitioners who would do a prostration after every step for their entire journey to all four holy mountains. I felt completely ashamed! How could my trifling actions convey reverent admiration and be worthy of even a tiny part of Bodhisattva's grace?
On the way to the pagoda, I went past the Nantian Gate and the Shiwang Hall, which was located in a dark forest. I was panting and sweating heavily as I approached the high stone steps of the Bodhisattva pagoda, but my mind was as clear as a mirror, and my body felt light as the wind; it was as if my blood circulated without resistance, my heart was beating calmly, and my mind was emptied of all thoughts. Words cannot adequately describe my state. Thus I approached the front of the pagoda very quickly. I did 48 more prostrations, after which my whole body was energized - not only did my fatigue disappear, but my chronic cough also vanished without a trace. That was the third miracle.
We stayed at Mt. Jiuhua for quite a few days, and I worshipped at all the holy sites in the vicinity, including many images of monks who had become Bodhisattvas in their lifetimes, and even the Ksitigarbha forest on the highest peak, Mt. Tiantai. I also visited the peak called the "84,000 pound (jin) bell of the underworld", and the "natural barrier with a secret bridge", and other wondrous scenes. At such places, we would often race to the top.
When we returned to Shanghai, no one could believe that my previously weak, sickly frame could become my presently healthy, active self. Whose gift was this? It was the compassionate protection of Great Vow Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Namo Mahapranidhana Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Mahasattva!
(2) A Serious Illness is Cured
by Ling Zhenxing
Several years ago, during the time when my youngest daughter was in the 7th to 12th grades, she suffered from a kidney disease. Since medical treatment had not succeeded in curing her, and our financial situation was not ideal, we stopped treatment for a while. Then one day in September of last year (1978), her face suddenly began to swell up, which frightened us so much that we immediately took her in to the doctor. According to the results, her condition was much worse than before. Although it wasn't life-threatening, her condition was still serious. My mind was very troubled then, for if I took her to the doctor every day or even every other day, our family would have even more difficulty making ends meet. What was I to do? I had no choice but to ask the doctor for help. Fortunately, he was very sympathetic to my situation, and told me about a medicine I could buy for my daughter which might cure her after taking it for six months.
I thought to myself that she needed more than medicine, since that didn't work even in the beginning stages before the disease had become serious. Now that her condition had advanced, it seemed that it would be even more difficult to treat. Therefore I decided, for the time being, to pray to the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. I would still have her take the medicine, in addition to which I would show her how to pray to the Buddha every morning and evening. I never imagined that her kidney disease, which doctors had tried to cure over a period of several years, was totally cured within the short time of two months! Who could believe in a miracle like this? To be honest, even the doctors thought it was strange. I think that if it weren't for our prayers to the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, my daughter would still be sick. Therefore I am very grateful for the Buddha's grace.
How did my daughter pray to the Buddha for a cure? At first, I was afraid that since she was a child, she wouldn't have enough patience to do prostrations every day. So I told her that the power of the Buddha is infinite, that the only way to save her life would be to pray to the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. That is how I encouraged her, and at the same time, I showed her the simplest way to worship: after washing up in the morning, she should go before the Buddha and with her whole heart and mind, repeat, "Namo Amidha Buddha" for each of six prostrations, then "Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva" six times, for a total of 12 prostrations. Then she should kneel, and repeat "Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva" 100 more times. Before going to bed each night, she should do three prostrations, while repeating "Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva", then repeat it 100 more times while kneeling. By repeating, prostrating, and praying every day for two months, her disease was cured! It is truly inconceivable!
(3) Saved From Suffering by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
by Huang Zhide
When I was little, people called me "happy elf", and when I was in school, my nickname was "happy pill". It wouldn't have bothered me if the sky fell, or the mountains collapsed and the earth split open. Thus I lived my life happily, without any worries or anxieties. It was as if I were free as a bird, circling in the air where there is of course no pain or suffering.
But now I'm old, living has given me the experience that there is a lot of pain and not much happiness. If there were no suffering, then why do children come into the world crying? That's the beginning of suffering. The Buddha said, "With ignorance as the cause, there is the result of suffering in life." I once heard Ven. Rui Jin speak. He said that life is like a piece of white cloth. It becomes soiled by black ink. Then it must be cleaned thoroughly with water before it becomes clean and pure again. Thus we must often repeat the Buddha's name. The Buddha has compassion for all beings, and causes the sinful nature in people to gradually be purified. This is the only way to leave behind pain and suffering.
While my son was home in August last year, Doctor Li came by for a visit one day. Since he was already there, I told him, "Sometimes I feel there is a blockage in the area of my throat, and it becomes difficult to catch my breath, and sometimes I can't even manage to swallow a spoonful of water. What could be causing this?" Doctor Li look me over carefully and said, " It would be best if you got it checked out at the hospital."
I took his advice, and went to Zhonghua Hospital. Yang Min, a senior doctor, examined me, and said that the rest of my body was normal, but he would need to do an x-ray to determine what was wrong with my throat. They did the x-ray, which showed that there was something unknown growing between my windpipe and esophagus. Three specialists examined my case, and then decided that I should have an operation. When I heard this, I was shocked and afraid. I thought to myself, I'm over 60 years old, and they want me to have this operation. I really didn't think it was worth it, come what may. I went home and told my children about my situation. My daughter Wei said, "No matter what, you must tell my brother at school, and my sister Yong." All my children unanimously agreed that I should have the operation. Being outnumbered, I gave in.
They took me to the hospital the day my son returned from school. After filling out all the forms for admission, they took my temperature and gave me an enema. At 9:00 the next morning, I entered the operating room, passing through the "gates of death". There were five doctors and two nurses. I was told to lie on the icy cold operating table, where they bound my hands and feet, allowing me no movement whatsoever. My eyes were closed tightly, and I was repeating, "Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva". At 9:15 Dr. Hermosisima arrived, and administered the anesthetic. I then fell into a deep sleep.
During the operation, Dr. Hermosisima first examined me carefully, then finally removed the more than 7-inch obstruction in over four hours of surgery. When I awoke, I was already in a patient room, with my children, family and friends all around. I breathed a sigh of relief, and felt grateful for my life.
I opened my mouth to speak, but no sound came out. Then my eyes filled up and the tears streamed down my face. My son came forward to comfort me, telling me not to worry or get upset during my recovery. At that time I realized that there was a hole in my throat, with a round metal device there helping me breathe. It felt very uncomfortable. The doctor had previously told me that after my operation there would be some discomfort. My daughter stayed with me that night, and fortunately I slept peacefully until the next morning. Throughout my entire stay at the hospital, I always had special nurses and my children there taking care of me.
On the morning of the 18th, Dr. Yang stopped in to see me during his morning rounds. He told me, "Your surgery went very well, and you were also very brave. I think a few days are all you will need to recuperate." What could I say? I forced a smile.
I am grateful to Ven. Wei Ci, Father Chen from the Shengxin Middle School, close friends and fellow Buddhists who came to see me while I was in the hospital. I will always be thankful for their kindness and concern. There was even a letter from an old friend who invited me to visit her in Taiwan after I had fully recovered. I readily accepted the invitation, since I had long planned a trip to Xizhi Maitreya Buddhist Academy to pay my respects to the still whole remains of Ven. Ci Hang, as this is one of my great wishes.
On the eighth day the doctors allowed me to check out of the hospital to continue my convalescence at home. However, I still needed to undergo electrotherapy treatment. Dr. Canoy, the electrotherapist, suggested after examining me that I have another x-ray taken, and my blood levels checked. The results indicated that I needed to come in for 20 more days of electrotherapy, 10 minutes each day, without exception. Every morning at eight, my daughter Yong went in with me for the therapy. I remember that after about 10 days, my whole body was weak, I had no energy, my limbs had no strength, and my throat was burning. I couldn't even drink a spoonful of water. I couldn't take it any longer, walking around in a daze, like a corpse.
I had lost over 30 pounds, and everyone was worried about me. I wanted to stop the treatment, but the doctors would not agree, saying it would waste all of the previous treatment. After some deliberation, the doctors prescribed some medicine and gave me injections to strengthen my health. We went on to complete all 20 sessions of electrotherapy. The pain I suffered was indescribable.
What seems like ages went by, and there was still one major barrier - the metal device was still implanted in my throat. When could I get that removed? It had already been over five months, and the doctors are saying it can't come out yet. I was burning with frustration. How long were they going to wait? I was more than a little concerned. During this time, I could only pray with a devout heart for Buddha's compassion and pity to pardon my sins.
I remember the morning of January 20. I was sitting in a chair, my eyes were closed and I was repeating the Candi Mantra when suddenly I heard someone tell me, "Peiheng! Your past bad karma has not yet been destroyed." In my surprise, I opened my eyes to look. Aiya! It was Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva! But the vision disappeared very quickly. Thus I immediately kneeled down before the image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and prayed for repentance, that the Bodhisattva would pardon my sins. Then I made a vow to read 10 times of the sutra Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva' Original vow and beg for Ksitigarbha to remove my karmic obstructions.
On January 26, I began reading the sutra. It really worked! By the time I finished the fifth time reading, the doctors had removed the breathing apparatus from my throat. When they were about to do the surgery, I was very nervous, frightened and excited. It is very hard to describe exactly how I felt. On February 1, I went to Dinghui Monastery. I am grateful to Ven. Wei Ci who, out of compassion, prayed before the Buddha on my behalf for the transference of Buddha-merit, as my incision has healed completely. From now on, I do prostrations to Ksitigarbha every morning and evening. I am thankful for his grace in saving people from suffering and disaster; my heart is comforted and pleased without limit.
(4) Seeing My Deceased Grandmother in a Dream
by Nai Yuan
When I think of my grandmother who passed away several years ago, I recall that she is not like the elderly women described in novels, happily enjoying her later years, surrounded by her children and grandchildren; rather she spent her last years sick in bed due to a fall one day. Since then, we, her children and grandchildren have been taking turns looking after her, feeding her, and taking care of her daily needs.
When I was in 6th grade, my eldest sister, who was attending Zhongyuan University brought back a precious Buddhist sutra from a Buddhist book store. She told us about the Buddha Dharma, which we had never heard of before. I was very intrigued. I made myself read the Treatise of the Universal Gate every night, the Great Compassion Mantra, or else repeat the Buddha's name several hundred times. I was happy and pleased with what I was doing. I wouldn't do my homework until I had finished my worship. I would often talk to my closest classmates about the greatness and sublime nature of Buddhism. After a while, they would sometimes come to my house after school or during vacations and recite, worship, and read with me.
One night I dreamed that my grandmother had come to see me. She had a large stomach, as if she were pregnant. I immediately thought of the Treatise of the Universal Gate :
If there is a woman desiring a son, and she worships and makes
offerings to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, she will bear a wise and
righteous son. If she desires a daughter, she will bear a daughter
with well-balanced features and a moral character, and who enjoys
the respect of all people.
So I happily told my grandmother who had passed away a year ago, "You should start reciting the holy name of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, that way your child will be healthy and fair." My grandmother said, "I don't know how to do that. How do you do that?" I put my palms together and said, "You must be very sincere and repeat, 'Praise to Avalokitesvara, Bodhisattva of great compassion and vast inspiration, deliverer from suffering and disaster.'"
To my surprise, she kept up with me, but then stopped after several repetitions. Then suddenly her face became ashen, with black circles appearing under her eyes, at last becoming a ferocious mask. She reached out and grabbed my neck. I rolled to the ground in fear, still struggling with her. Now that I think about it, her throat was as thin as a needle and her stomach was as big as a ceramic tub; these are signs of hungry ghost retribution.
When I awoke from that hideous dream, my heart was pounding from fear. I waited only until it got light outside to ask my elder sister about the dream. She said, "Perhaps after Grandmother died, she was reborn to suffer in the realm of ghosts or even hell. She knew that you read sutras every day, so she came to you in a dream to ask you to save her. You should read the sutra Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow, and then transfer the merit to her."
That sutra contains a passage:
Any ghost or any other shape, be it sad or crying, upset or sighing,
afraid or frightening, which is seen by a living being who is dreaming
or sleeping, is a parent, sibling or spouse from 1, 10, 100 or even 1000
lifetimes ago, still in an evil realm, unable to escape. They have no
hope of being extricated through their own merits. They can only appeal
to someone with flesh and bones in this world to take measures which
will free them.
After reading that passage, the image of my grandmother, grinding her teeth as she lay dying flashed in my mind. The night before she passed away, she saw my grandfather, who had died 5 years earlier, in a dream. He was on the other side of a river, calling her, beckoning her, inviting her to cross over. She literally pulled up her pantlegs, and waded across. Another passage reads:
Anyone in Jambudvipa2 who practices good will, as his physical body
is dying, be met by hundreds of thousands of ghosts from the hells,
some of whom will impersonate his parents or even spouse; they will
cause him to enter hell.
The next morning, my grandmother told us about the dream she had about my grandfather. At that time, which was before we knew anything about Buddhism, we had no idea that this was a subtle omen that Grandmother was about to leave us.
On the morning of the day after that, I went in to bring my grandmother breakfast. I was pulling open the mosquito netting over her bed when I noticed she didn't look right. Her eyes were bulging with rage, her teeth were clenched in hate, and she was gasping for breath. I was only in 5th or 6th grade then, and so frightened that I just turned and exited the room. I ran upstairs to tell my father. When he came down and saw my grandmother in such a state, he panicked, but then began to talk to her quietly. She wanted to say something, but it seemed as if her teeth were glued together and she couldn't get them apart. Her pain was becoming greater and greater, and breathing was increasingly difficult. She was becoming difficult to look at. Judging from the invitation of my dead grandfather, and the look on my grandmother's face as she was dying, there is no doubt that she is suffering in one of the hells.
When my grandmother passed away, I wasn't yet a Buddhist, and so I did not know I could help her be reborn in paradise by invoking the name of the Buddha. During the seven weeks after she died, I did not invite monks to help her cross over to paradise. Now that I know which realm she was reborn in, the sadness is very painful for me. Therefore I resolved to save her from the depths of her suffering, to release her spirit from that evil place. I acted in accordance with the instructions in the sutra:
Set your mind on reading this sutra, or invite someone else to do so,
three times or seven times. If it is for a relative reborn in an evil realm,
he will attain liberation when you finish reading the sutra for the final
From that day on, every evening after I ate and bathed, I burned incense and prayed devoutly; I also read Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow every day, pausing at the end of each fascicle to transfer the merit to my grandmother, so that the Buddha's wisdom will help her attain liberation as soon as possible, so she can be reborn in a good realm. After doing this approximately 10 times, I did not dream about my grandmother being hateful ever again.
I am thankful to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, for the saving power of compassion; I am also grateful to the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni Buddha, who spoke the 84,000 Dharma gates, adapted to the different needs and capacities of sentient beings. So that we after so many years after Budda's Nivana got to know about Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of great compassion; Ksitigarbha, the Bodhisattva of great vows; Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of great wisdom; Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of realizing great vows... and all the other great Bodhisattvas, who teach and save sentient beings. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a Buddhist in this lifetime, to gain an understanding of the Dharma, and help my grandmother by reading the sutra. But there are so many people in this world, and so many beings in the six realms, and few of them are able to hear about the Buddha Dharma.
The Buddha once said, "Gaining a human body is as rare as the dust on a hand, while losing a human body as the dirt on the earth." As soon as the human body is lost, it cannot be regained for 10,000 kelps; and trying to study or practice Buddhism while in one of the three evil realms would be like a person trying to climb to heaven from earth. How pitiable is this! While writing this, I recall my master Shenkai's holy vow: "I vow to remain in this world of struggling, life after life, to help and liberate all beings, to serve just like a street cleaner to clean and sweep away all the impurities of the world, so that 5 billion, 670 million years from now, Pure Land will emerge on earth, and people will welcome Maitreya Bodhisattva into the world to become a Buddha." There is not a single time I think of this that I am not moved. The path of the Bodhisattva is difficult to practice, it is difficult to convert beings (those in my body and those out side of my body). When I feel like giving up, I just think of my master. He is not afraid of hardship, he bears what is hard to bear, he practices what is hard to practice, in the spirit of a great Bodhisattva. I have great admiration for him and feel great shame by comparison. I must make a greater effort in my practice and always remain vigilant.
Bit by bit, day by day, several years went by. It is presently six or seven years ago that my grandmother passed on. I hope that she has been reborn in the higher realms, or able to be born in the world to become a Buddhist. I also pray that now and in the future thousands or even millions of people practice the pure way, to sweep away humanity's impurities together, experiencing the truth of Buddhism, and cause the sweet dew of the Buddha Dharma to penetrate the three realms.
(5) Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Appears in a Dream
by Qing He
Two summers ago, I went with my mother to central Taiwan to visit my aunt. As soon as we entered her house, we saw that there was an altar with two images of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and with offerings, and burning incense on it. It was an impressive sight. I put my palms together to offer my respects and in my heart I was happy that my aunt had discovered worshipping the Bodhisattva. Then I said to my aunt, who was sitting down, "Aunt, has it been long that you have taken refuge in the Triple Gem?"
She answered with great pleasure. " I truly thank the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the 10 directions for their divine help. If it weren't for my destiny with Buddhism, I would have gone to a hell long ago." I didn't know what she meant, and so it was with a questioning look in my eyes that I looked at her and asked, " What were the circumstances and conditions that caused you to take refuge in the Triple Gem? It is hard to imagine that in just a few years, you have changed so much."
She looked intently at the image of the Bodhisattva, and said reflectively, "It was several years ago, and I had gone to visit a friend. They had an image of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in their house. When I saw it, I felt joy, and as if not by my own will, I put my palms together in worship. After that, I simply forgot about it."
She went on to say, "Every year, for every holiday or celebration, we would slaughter many livestock as an offering. Two years ago, the 23rd day of the third lunar month, was Mazu's3 birthday. Every family was killing for offerings. We were a well-to-do family, and we were devout followers of Mazu, so naturally we would kill more chickens and ducks than other families. We prepared about 20 tables with meat and other food, inviting friends and family. I was very happy about it. I thought to myself, by inviting so many friends to our table, we have demonstrated sincerity as followers, and Mazu would bless us from above.
"When everyone had had enough to eat and fully enjoyed themselves, it was about 8 o'clock. The guests went home. I was extremely tired from entertaining so many guests so I took a hot shower and went to bed. I don't know why, but I tossed and turned, unable to fall asleep. What was originally a peaceful night turned into a fierce thunderstorm. I suddenly became much more alert. In the darkness, I felt like the whole room was filled with the rancid smell of blood. Also, what sounded like the cries of chickens, ducks and geese, floated into my ears. I wanted to scream, but no sound came out; my whole body felt paralyzed. Somehow, in the midst of all this, I passed out and fell asleep.
"The next morning when I awoke, I could only feel that my whole body was sore. My limbs were week, and I had no energy. There were dark circles under my eyes, and my face was ashen. I was very sick. That night, I slept dazedly, breathing shallowly. While asleep, it seemed that I was falling down a deep pit. I panicked and was so frightened that I wailed desperately. Suddenly I hit the bottom. A brilliant ray of light fell directly on me, which caused me to lose all of my fear and be comforted. Then a person with a monk's robe on his back, his face like the moon, came down from the light. He held my hand and took me out of the pit. I went with the monk to a place that was vast and bright.
"He said softly, 'I am the one to whom you bowed at your friend's house several years ago, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Your sins of killing animals are heavy, and those animals want you to pay with your life. They will not spare you. After you die, you will go to hell to experience immeasurable suffering. However, as a result of the one sincere thought when you worshipped the Bodhisattva image, you will be exempted from going to hell, but you will experience suffering as retribution. You still have some remaining bad karma, so starting from today, you must be penitent about those past sins, and never again do the act of killing. You must be a compassionate member of society, always practice charity, and do your best to accumulate good merit.' Having said this, the monk disappeared.
"When I awoke, I told my family about my experiences in the dream I had. Everyone was almost convinced that it was real, although they could not be sure. But it was definitely a miracle that I recovered from my deathly illness of the day before. Since then, I have taken refuge in the Triple Gem at a Buddhist temple, and acquired an image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva to use in making offerings. Every morning and evening I do prostrations while repeating the holy name of the Bodhisattva. At night I read one fascicle of the sutra, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's's Original Vow, then do a transference of merit for the slaughtered livestock so that they might soon be reborn in a better realm. I also stopped raising livestock and will never again kill a living creature. I often make offerings to the Triple Gem, read books or listen to Dharma talks, or sponsor the printing of Buddhist books. I avoid doing evil, and humbly do good, also imploring others to do so. Everyone in the family should have a happy life, and every family should be able to have the honor of being called a "model family" so the neighbors are envious. I was very happy, but also very ashamed."
At this point, my aunt was so pleased she could have gone on and on. After hearing about her first-hand experiences, how Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva had appeared to her in a dream to convince her to give up killing, I spontaneously decided to respectfully follow her example. Here I would like to implore all housewives to avoid killing animals, otherwise the living spirits which you harmed will come back for your life, and then you will go to hell. But since you now have a connection with Buddhism, you know how to pray to Ksitigarbha to save you.
(6) Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva of Great Vows and Salvation from Suffering
by Heng Yu
It was January 21, 1960, wintertime, and I wasn't cold at all even though I was only wearing a wool sweater. In fact, I was quite hot, but I couldn't take the sweater off since I noticed the early signs of a cold.
I hadn't been at work long at all when I had received a letter from a gentleman in Taipei, asking me to go to the publisher, Bodhi Tree, and buy a copy of Bing nan Lee's Questions and Answers in Buddhist Studies. Since I'm impulsive by nature, I have to do something as soon as I think it needs to be done; I took 31/2 hours off and brought my tired body to Bodhi Tree. The sun was shining so brightly that I started sweating. I thought to myself, sweating like this will at least by good for my cold. And so I still didn't take of my sweater. I asked Mr. Chu Fei "Do you have master Lee's Questions and Answers in Buddhist Studies?" I was very disappointed to hear that they had run out.
As I was passing Lotus publishing house, I decided to go in. Just then Lai Dongliang, an elder layman, came out pushing his bicycle. When he saw me, he turned his bike around and said, "I was just going to look for you, to have you earn some merit." He was also holding a copy of that day's paper, People's Voice, showing me the second page. I said to him, " You are really something - you wanted me to come, and here I am. What can I do for you? I'm glad to help!" But he wanted me to sit down and read the paper. But I was in no mood to read the paper since I had to hurry back to work. Getting him to tell me what he wanted was like collecting alms (difficult). That's when I lost my temper, saying, "Mr. Lai, if you want me to write something, that's no problem, but if you want me to go out alms collecting, then I'm afraid that's impossible!" He said, "Please sit down. You see (he pointed to the paper) what merit you need to do?" I said, " If you don't want me to write something, then what else is there?"
Mr. Lai did not wait for me to finish, saying quickly, "I was reading Zhongfo Yuekan (Chinese Buddhism Monthly), and saw the article about the remarkable events that happened after you read the sutra Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow. Now there is a fellow Buddhist, Ji Sanquan, whose family is without money. He's making a living by pedaling a three-wheel delivery cart and doing electrical work. Shortly after last year's flood, his father passed away. He did everything he could to get back on his feet, but incurred some debts that he is still repaying. As if his suffering were not enough! And then, you won't believe what happened after that: while he was on a 30-foot electric pole, he fell off. Aiya! His karmic obstructions are extremely weighty. Please read the sutra for him so that he can avoid disasters in the future. I told him yesterday that you might be able to help."
After I had listened to Mr. Lai tell me this with compassion and in such detail, I couldn't help but feel sad. So I agreed to read the sutra tomorrow, and transfer the merit to this fellow Buddhist, hoping that he recovers as soon as possible.
At around 9:00 on the 22nd, I went to Chengqing Hospital on Pingdeng St. to visit Mr. Ji. This was the first time in my whole life that I had visited someone in the hospital. It felt very much like I was entering hell, with all the strange sights, and the terrible nauseating smell that filled the air. I had to cover my nose, even though it embarrassed me to do so. Despite the fact that I wasn't going to stay long, I still had to try my hardest to bear it. I found room 30, and saw that there were several patients there. Then I realized that I had never met Mr. Ji. An elderly lady was walking by, so I asked her if she knew who he was. It just happened that she was his mother, and she told me which was his bed. When I saw him lying there in bed, not moving, I began repeating to myself the name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. I walked over to his bed and asked him, "Are you a vegetarian?" He said, "Only in the morning, and the first and 15th of every lunar month." He was very thin, just skin and bones. His voice was soft and low. I knew that if I had seen him like this before I had become Buddhist, I would have ran away in fright. I said, "If you eat only vegetarian foods for 10 full days, and constantly repeat 'Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva' out loud or to yourself, there will be a supernatural reaction. But you must be sincere. I am also reading the sutra Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow for you until you get better."
He was very moved by my sincerity, and immediately agreed to what I had suggested. I said: "Tomorrow is the 24th day of the 12th (lunar) month - you can start then." Then I said to his mother, "You have an image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva; please worship, repeat the name, and pray for the Bodhisattva's great compassion, that your son does not become crippled." I don't speak the Taiwan dialect very well, but fortunately she could understand. Then, while pulling the sheet off his shoulder, she said, "There are eight people in his family, and they are all depending on him." Looking at his shoulder was like receiving an electric shock. My knees became so weak that I almost fell over. You couldn't tell that it was a human shoulder. Blood and flesh mixed together, almost looking like braised meat. Red and green fluids ran from the open wound, and his wife delicately dabbed at the wound. I wondered if this could be cured at all. It was with a heavy heart that I went back to work.
That evening when I was chanting the sutra, there was a sudden wrenching pain in my abdomen. This sort of thing had never happened before during chanting, but I still finished the sutra despite the pain. Actually, I thought, this pain isn't so bad; just when I feel like lying down from exhaustion from the stress of work and home, the pain reminds me of Mr. Ji lying there in the hospital moaning, and then I regained the energy to chant devoutly and reverently for him.
At noon on the 25th, I bought an image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and brought it to Chengqing Hospital. When one of the patients saw it, he was so full of praise and joy that I gave it to him on the spot. Then I told him about the 10 benefits that Ksitigarbha can effect, as follows:
1. Fertile soil
2. Peaceful and happy home
3. Deceased relatives will go to heaven
4. Longer lifespan
5. Attainment of what is sought
6. No water or fire disasters
7. Elimination of false wastes
8. Preventing nightmares
9. Protection by spirits
10. Frequent encounters with holy causes
He not only believed this, he was also very thankful, saying, " Thank you very much, thank you very much."
I walked to Mr. Ji's bedside, and asked him, "How is your wound?" His mother was very pleased to tell me, "Sanquan's shoulder is much better," as she moved the bandage to show me. I was so happy I almost jumped up when I saw it. I said excitedly, "Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is truly effective! Just a few days ago his shoulder was a mess of blood and flesh, now you can make out its shape, and there is no more pus or blood oozing out. This is truly inconceivable." To be honest, if he had depended solely on the healing power of medicine, he would not have recovered this quickly. The other patients sharing his room also expressed their surprise. Mr. Ji said to me with wonder and gratefulness, "I repeat the holy name of Ksitigarbha over 300 times every day." I said, "It would be best if you do this constantly, every moment." At last, I left Chengqing Hospital with a good feeling.
Every Sunday, Mr. Lai and Hao Enhong would go to T'aichung Prison to spread the Dharma. When I saw Mr. Lai, I asked him if Mr. Ji had gotten better. He said, "Yes, he is much better, but the doctor says he should have an X-ray taken, and have two surgeries to reset the broken bone. So I can't say for sure that he's better. Also, he's out of money..." I realized what Mr. Lai was implying, and could only sigh. Mr. Ji wasn't better yet, which made me feel extremely responsible and ashamed. I was very willing to help out, but I had limited financial resources. Driven by a sense of humanitarian morals and justice, I could not help but feel upset and perplexed.
After I got home, I didn't feel like doing anything at all; I just sat and pondered, sat and pondered... Was there any way for Ji Sanquan to avoid getting the operations? I said to myself: "Thank you Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva for blessing Ji Sanquan so that his wounds are all healed. His left shoulder is still immobilized, and the doctor says he must undergo two more operations. There is no guarantee that he will recover completely. I truly feel sorry for Ji Sanquan. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, as your disciple, I beg you to bless him with your compassion and divine power so that he will not need to have the operations." I repeated my prayers every day.
While I was at Ciguang Library listening to sutras one Wednesday night, I heard someone say that Mr. Lai was looking for me. At that point I did not know if Ji Sanquan had recovered yet or not. I went to see Mr. Lai, and without waiting for him to speak, I asked him, "Has Ji Sanquan been discharged yet?" The smile I saw on his face made me relax. "Yes," he answered. Then I asked, "Did he have the operations?" "Well, it's strange, but no, he did not. He unexpectedly met an old man who was a bone setter. The man massaged and manipulated his shoulder a little, and everything was all right. You told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, didn't you? Ji Sanquan wants to see you to thank you." I told him about my prayers to the Bodhisattva. He was still smiling when he heard this, then he said, "No wonder, no wonder," as his eyes misted up.
Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Mahasattva, who uses divine powers to
appear as a Sravaka. His hidden, stored away merit contains many
subtle mysteries. Liberation is like treasures emerging everywhere.
The Bodhisattvas see clearly with pure eyes. Great ones set their eyes
toward Nirvana. Like magic pearls, our wishes are wealth; whatever we
wish for will be fulfilled. Those who practice good will be shined upon,
they will resemble the bright sun. Those who have lost the way will be
shined upon, they will resemble a bright torch. The heat of defilement
will be removed, leaving coolness like that of the moon. For those in the
four currents,4 he will be the bridge. For those who are headed toward
the other shore,5 he will be the raft. He subdues all wrong paths, just as
the lion king. He causes deva demons to descend, like water from the
great dragon spring. He protects us from what we fear, as friends and
family would. He defends us from hateful enemies, like a moat and
castle wall. He saves us from crises and disasters, like our parents
In Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow, final fascicle, chapter 13:
At that time, the World-honored One raised his golden hand, and
touched Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Mahasattva's head, saying,
"Ksitigarbha! Ksitigarbha! Your divine powers are inconceivable, your
wisdom is inconceivable, your eloquence is inconceivable. This rightly
causes all Buddhas in the 10 directions to spread praise of your
inconceivable actions, which will not be exhausted for millions of
I left Mr. Lai happy and smiling. Although it was late at night, I did 48 prostrations before Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and wept. It is difficult to repay the grace that our parents give us; the great grace of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is limitless and there is no way to repay it. We can only remember the Buddha, wholeheartedly repeating his name, and vow to uphold the discipline that purifies. We have great reverence for the Western Buddha-world, the way to Nirvana. Thus, it is with all my heart that I surrender my life in worship.
I hope that the readers will repeat together, "Namo Ksitigarbha, Bodhisattva of great vows, great compassion, who saves from suffering! Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva!"
(7) Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Mahasattva, Savior of Beings in Hell
by Heng Yu
Ksitigarbha, Bodhisattva of great vows, and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva are the compassionate father and mother of suffering beings. They are the supporters for the present hell-like world .
Every time I hear a fire or police siren, I get as upset as if it were for me. I remember when I was a child of seven years, our house had two terrible fires in a row. We lost everything of value. Then my father fell ill from anxiety. A happy family was destroyed by the noncaring fire. The fire was caused by a neighbor who, while gambling with friends, threw out a burning cigarette butt. The harm that this group of gambling devotees caused us is quite extensive. The year was 1953, and we were poverty stricken, with small children. My health was poor, and I suffered great emotional hardships; I was like a lost sheep, going to Catholic Mass, then almost joining Yiguandao.6 They said I had to donate 30 yuan, but I fortunately did not have 30 yuan to donate. Thus some latent good karma was able to emerge, and I was fortunate enough to enter the gate of Buddhism.
I heard Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow first, then I heard Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Universal Gate Chapter.7 It didn't matter if the wind was blowing or there was a rainstorm; I could always forget about my worries and listen reverently until the sutra was finished, and my mind was purified. I would often dream about the sutras. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva have given me incomparable joy, leaving me "filled with joy of the Dharma" as mentioned in sutras.
On January 1, 1956, I received orders to be store caretaker of the T'aichung Department of Corrections. Our store was located at 96 Ziyou St., across from the local courthouse. Anything that the prisoners made would be sold in this store. There were items made from cane, wood, reeds and cloth. That building was simply constructed. I lived and ate in the store, and it seemed as if it were my own business. Although the bedroom was small, I installed a single bed and a Buddhist altar, hanging a curtain in-between. The kitchen was small. Just outside the kitchen door was my office desk, which still had the price tag on the side, which read 250 yuan (about $10).
At that time I used an old-fashioned kerosene stove. The stove was already old and fragile, but I couldn't bear the thought of throwing it away. One afternoon after filling up the tank, I lit the burner, put on a pot of rice, and then went out back to wash my vegetables for dinner. When I came back in, there was a huge fire burning. Panicking I threw the burning stove onto my desk in the office. Just in time, my elder son ran in, grabbed the army blanket from my bed, wrapped the stove in it, and threw it outside. People were starting to gather, to watch the fiercely burning fire, hands in their pockets. Suddenly a teenager came running up and without a word, spared no effort in beating out the fire. There wasn't a single onlooker who did not express astonishment at the teenager's feat. When I went to express my thanks to him for his selfless and courageous effort, he had already disappeared.
Earlier, when I had thrown the burning stove to the side of the desk, kerosene had spilled everywhere. There were also flammable goods all around the room. Not only were the goods completely undamaged, but nothing on my desk was burnt at all, with the sole exception of the price tag which was somewhat scorched. If that teenager wasn't a transformation body of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, then who was he? I worship Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva every month. In the 12th chapter of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow , it reads:
If in the future, good sons or daughters pursue any of the hundreds,
thousands and millions of wishes, or the hundreds, thousands and
millions of activities for the present or future, all they need to take
refuge in, worship and praise the image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.
In this way all wishes will be realized. Furthermore, if one wishes that
Ksitigarbha's great compassion protects and supports him, then while
he is asleep and dreaming, the Bodhisattva will touch his crown,
passing on prophetic information...
Although these events happened 20 years ago, I remember everything as if it happened yesterday.
If the fire had damaged the goods in the store, or affected the neighboring buildings, I would have gone to jail and spent some time behind bars. I would have lost custody of my children, which I cannot imagine. Subsequently none of my superiors said a word of reproach to me. As I write this, tears of gratitude are streaming down my face.
On May 1, 1968, my application to be transferred to the local jail was accepted. After working there for one week, I had to take sick leave due to an illness. I went to a public health clinic, and then to see a gynecologist in a big hospital in Taipei. I also tried every type of Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Not only did none of them work, but my conditioned worsened. An authoritative gynecologist, Xu Qiantian, would come to the clinic every Wednesday morning. People would climb in a window before dawn just to take a low number and get treatment. There were also many women who came from Southern Taiwan just to be treated by Dr. Xu. Her medical abilities were highly revered by many women, myself no exception.
After she did a puncture biopsy on my uterus, the results indicated that there was a tumor, for which I had to get surgery at the nearby Taipei Hospital. I stayed in the hospital for 20 days, all along having doubts about the surgery. My friends and co-workers suggested that I get the surgery to solve the problem once and for all. My children, seeing how serious my condition was, made it clear that I should get the operation. I was so afraid of surgery that I would rather die than go under the knife. When the doctor heard that I wasn't willing to undergo the operation, she had me return home. So I went back home and lay sick in bed, my whole body in pain. Then I regretted not getting the operation; now I wanted to go back for it! I was upset and bound by conflict.
Ever since the move from T'aichung to Taipei, all my belongings were still in disarray in the new, smaller apartment. I still hadn't made any offerings to my image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. I was in a daze from the pain, and almost out of options when I happened to look at Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva who gave me a copy of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow, suddenly awakening to what had happened. I had made a vow to chant the sutra 108 times after I moved. I prayed to the Bodhisattva, "There is no more need to test me, despite jagged mountains and fiery cauldrons, I am still a devout Buddhist. I will do my best to cause others to become Buddhist, and I will pray that the Bodhisattva compassionately blesses me so that I may recover soon."
Thus I began to spend my days reading the sutra to myself in bed. My condition improved daily. After I had chanted the sutra all 108 times, I had fully recovered. Ever since then, I chant the sutra at least once a day. It has inconceivable powers of inspiration. I began repeating the holy name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva every moment in my mind, and eventually it repeated itself. My health has improved, as this is more nourishing than any worldly food. In this lifetime I am grateful to the Bodhisattva for protecting me and clearing all of my spiritual and karmic debts from my previous existence over the kalpas.
I have firmly set my heart and mind on seeking final release from samsara, to attain liberation. Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, liberator of beings from earth and hell.
(8) In Memory of the Grace Given to me by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
by Heng Yu
The days are passing quickly. In the blink of an eye, Ksitigarbha's birthday, the 30th day of the seventh lunar month, is almost upon us. Everyone knows that Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva stays in hell to save beings with the heaviest sins. Anyone who reveres or worships him should emulate his great spirit of converting beings. I resolved to hold the precept of eating only vegetarian foods throughout that month in order to demonstrate my veneration for Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Additionally, I will imitate his spirit by trying to convert the inmates of the female prison, so that they accept the Buddhadharma, rejecting evil and striving for good.
My buddhist friends frequently go to the women's prison to talk about Buddhism as a way of supporting me. One time as I arrived, a prisoner announced happily, "Amitabha Buddha is coming!" I saw Mr. Lin and two other Buddhists had arrived. When he saw that the prisoners were firm believers in Buddhism, he exclaimed that I was "Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva". It was with some trepidation that I explained how it was due to the supernatural reaction of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva that I got this job. They listened with great curiosity and emotion. I spoke of receiving that holy grace like a lost traveler, finding his way back home, or someone who has been sick for a long time suddenly recovering. I will now respectfully tell the full story which is deeply imprinted in my heart.
I should express my heartfelt thanks for the spiritual inspiration of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. I remember that in the Fall, two years ago, I was sick in bed, moaning in pain. I could not sit or stand. I felt like I was going against the current in my surroundings. I felt like life was whipping me, and nothing gave me peace. Since I was a Buddhist, whenever I had problems I could not overcome, I would go before the Buddha and cry sadly, then I would go before Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva with a penitent heart, accepting that I had created the evil causes in previous lives, and it was not until this life that I experienced the suffering as retribution.
The more time went by, the deeper my suffering became. My only way out was to pray to the Buddha and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva to bestow liberation on me. As for a "job", I had asked many people to help me look. Whenever I began to have any hope about a particular job prospect, my happiness disappeared like a bursting bubble. I finally ran out of courage to pray to the Buddha; but then was there anyone I could depend on? In this world, who is the most loyal helper? As I turned this over in my mind, trying to console myself with explanations, I had a sudden and unshakable conviction that I was to go in front of the holy images of the Buddha and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and pray constantly.
One evening on a weekend, I heard a commotion outside, followed by someone calling me. I opened the door to find that it was Mrs. Wang coming back from listening to sutras at the Lotus Association. She seemed to be in a hurry. She handed me a small slip of paper and left before I could thank her. The paper read, "Taichung prison now hiring..." I was to be there the following afternoon to sign up for the application exam. The exam started the day after that at 8 am. We would be tested on literature, the teachings of our nation's founder, history, geography, civics, and math. I am someone who has been out of school and hasn't thought about these things for more than 10 years. I was so anxious that I couldn't sleep that night. The next morning at about 10 o'clock, I stopped by Mrs. Gan's on my way to go shopping. She encouraged me to sign up for the exams right away. Moved by her concern, I had no choice but to bring my ailing body to the place of registration. When I got there, it was so crowded that not even a drop of water could pass between people. I heard that they would only choose one female - with my skills, how could I even pass the exam? Then I thought, I might as well try it, and see. So I borrowed some books from a High School student, and did some intensive reading. It wasn't until I had spent half a day and a whole night reading (and not eating or sleeping) that I had reviewed all the subjects enough to feel somewhat prepared. Then I forced myself to go take the test. In the days that followed, I relaxed, and recovered from my illness without any medicine. I was eventually the one chosen for the position in the jail, a place where beings suffer for their sins.
This resolved my biggest question in life, and so I reverently strove to increase my emulation of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's power of vows. I followed after his spirit of helping the multitude of beings who are suffering as a result of sins.
I remember that the day before I started my job at the jail, I awoke at about 7 am, then went into a state of being half asleep and half awake. I dreamt that I was guided by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva to a place that was the same as in real life. Looking back, I realize that there must have been a mysterious power at work, since I, a person who greedily ate all sorts of meat, spontaneously committed to eat only vegetarian food on the first and 15th days of the lunar month.8 I gradually moved up the Avalokitesvara dietary precepts, then to a 10-day vegetarian diet. I am confident that in the not too distant future, I will become a full vegetarian. Many Buddhist friends say, being Buddhist is no problem, but being vegetarian presents some difficulty. Now I explain to them, "Being Buddhist does not prevent you from eating meat; you will naturally become vegetarian when you are devout enough in your faith, which includes believing in rebirth in the six realms, and having an aversion to eating the flesh of other beings. In terms of worldly Dharma: if you have troubles, and a friend comes to help you, then of course when things are going well for you again, you would buy (within your means) a gift for that person, something that he would enjoy. Therefore we should emulate the Buddha's compassion, and cherish the lives of all beings as we cherish our own.
Mr. Tang Xiangqing has also spent many years doing service in the Prison in Xinzhu and T'aichung, following after the great spirit of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. He converted many people who were suffering for their sins in jail, and there were quite a few who took refuge in the Triple Gem after their conversion. Last year Mr. Tang was promoted to a military judge. His fellow Buddhist friends were happy for him, and it was also a fortunate acquisition for the military. I firmly believe that he will work with a fair and incorruptible spirit, and cause those who have brushed up against the law to receive fair and moderate punishment. His wife is also a devout Buddhist. She is a vegetarian, possesses self-control, and is well mannered. Her spirit of great compassion, selflessly helping others, is admirable. Could he be not a transformation body of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva? Since the Bodhisattva's birthday is now here, I wanted to commemorate it by telling of these events to show my heartfelt gratitude to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.
(9) A Recent Encounter of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Spiritual Inspiration
by Heng Yu
It was 7 PM on September eighth. The wind outside brought along a light rain. One of my co-workers had just brought in a female prisoner, assigned to cell no.15. Her name was Zhang Biyun, she was 26 and was holding a pale child who cried constantly. I did not know what was wrong with her, but it looked as though she might cramp up, so I rang the bell for the prison doctor to come take a look at her. He said, "It's polio. There's no cure, but as long as she isn't feverish, she'll be all right." Then I said, "But this child is crying so pitifully and is obviously in pain - isn't there any medicine or injections you can give her to stop her from cramping?" The doctor answered, "Nothing will help."
I asked no.15, "Where are you from... What was your crime... How long is your sentence... Who else is in your family...?" She said, "I'm from the village of Wufeng, in T'aichung county. I made some rice wine for my grandfather to drink, but then someone told the police, and now I'm sentenced to three months in jail. My child is already three years old. She's been sick ever since a few days after she was born, and we've spent a lot of money trying to cure her, but nothing has worked. My husband is now serving in the army."
I smiled and said, "Don't worry anymore. It is in your fate to have contact with Buddhism." Then I wrote down the name and age of the child (Gao Xiuyue, 3) on a slip of paper which I placed before the Buddha. In the middle of the night I heard the baby crying. When I went in to take a look, I saw that no.15 was holding her, and the other prisoners in the cell were sitting quietly reciting the Buddha's name. I remembered that there is no cure for this child's polio, so I joined them, praying to the Bodhisattva, and transferring the merit from their recitations. Several days went by like this.
Nos. 7, 11 and 15 were sharing a cell. They said to me, "Teacher! We feel sorry for that child - she goes into crying fits three or four times a night, sometimes for as long as 30 minutes. None of us can sleep, so we sit up and recite the Buddha's name." I said to them, "What crime has this three-year old committed? She was stricken with this incurable illness just days after birth, and as a result cannot sit or walk freely. On top of that she has the pain of cramping up, as if she's been sentenced to hell. Isn't this created by evil deeds in her past life? Cause and effect is now before your very eyes; don't have the craving for vanity even for a moment - that would be an evil cause which would throw you into a bottomless hell, unable to escape. This is a lesson everyone should be aware of. Believe in the Buddha, and seek liberation from samsara by reciting the Buddha's's name."
One night at nine o'clock, the child cramped up and cried without any sound. Her eyes had rolled up into her head for almost 10 minutes. It seemed that this would be the end. No. 15 was crying. I called the prison doctor and the officers on duty, three people all together. When they saw the child, they told us, "Nothing will cure her." Then they left after asking us to recite the Buddha's name. I took no.15 before the Buddha, and repeated "Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva" for almost 20 minutes. The night the child slept soundly.
Every time I hear the child cry, I want to pray to the Buddha to bless her. But I can not help thinking that my recitations are not enough to help her get better, or that they may even be having a negative effect. The more I thought about it, the more I got upset, until I couldn't take it anymore. I finally got up my courage, went before the Buddha, put my palms together, and with great reverence loudly repeated , "Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva". After three minutes the child stopped crying, so I made a vow to chant Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow three times and transfer the merit to the child to reduce her misfortune. Each time I chanted the sutra, I wept.
One day while washing my hands, I saw that no.15 was also in the washroom, washing her clothes. I asked her, "How is your child? Has she gotten any better?" She said, "Yes, a little." I wanted to be sure, so I asked, "How can you tell?" She said, "She doesn't cramp up as much. Now it's only once or twice a day, and not at all at night. Before, it would happen five or six times a day, and three or four times a night. She would clench her fists and toes, and her whole body would tense up. She swatted so much that her hair was soaked even in cold weather. That's how it has been for the past three years." When I heard this I was surprised, since although I had not yet finished chanting the sutra three times, there was already some effect. Even before I had my lunch, I went before the Buddha and lit some incense. With utmost sincerity I expressed my gratitude to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, possessor of inconceivable divine powers, who saves beings sinking in the sea of suffering. I myself have not earned any good karma. I vow to chant Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow every day during each 10-day period of eating only vegetarian food. I would stand reverently while doing so (it takes at least 90 minutes each time). While chanting, I heard that the baby started crying, so I asked no.15 to hold her child and come before the Buddha. I put my palms together in reverence and loudly recited Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's holy name. It was as if I were calling Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva to respond. Through a will that was not my own, I became so upset that I began to cry aloud, then no.15 started crying as well. I still was able to say between sobs, "Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, bless this child who is suffering from misfortune." The child stopped crying in less than two minutes.
Later, when I heard the child crying, I would become very penitent and hate myself that my practice and observances were not sufficient, and cry in shame, hoping to never again hear the child cry. Even hearing other children cry had a psychological effect on me. One time I thought it was her, and when I went in to check on her, I saw that her mother would be holding her, both happily laughing. The child started to gain weight, which made no.15 full of smiles. I chanted the sutra six times, which took all day and all night, then I didn't hear the child cry again at all. But I still did not give up.
One day when I came into work, I asked, "Is no.15's child well today?" Everyone answered in unison, "Teacher, you really have great merit. Since you've started chanting for this sick child, she has become much healthier and more active. No. 15 is happier that she came here than if she would be if she won the lottery, the way she smiles so much." Then someone asked, "If Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is in charge of hell, then how does he have power over us?" I explained, "Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has made the vow that as long as hell is not empty, he will not attain Buddhahood; he not only resides in hell, but also dignifies hell and saves the beings suffering there. At the same time he saves beings in all six realms. The chapter "calling the Buddha's name" Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Vow Original says, "The Buddha told Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, 'You desire to cause compassion to arise, to save all beings who are suffering from their sins, to do this inconceivable act.'" I went on to say, "Ever since, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has been carrying out the Buddha's advice, saving beings in all six realms, not just those in hell. As long as you sincerely recite Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's name, he will manifest anywhere, and there is nobody he will not rescue. The chapter 'Exhorting People to Connect with Heaven'9 says:
The beings in Jambudvipa are of unstable will, and have many bad
habits. Even though they get some good thoughts, they will soon
disappear. If they encounter evil conditions, their thoughts would
grow moment by moment. I can discriminate hundreds, thousands,
even millions of different forms to convert, to liberate them in
accordance with their inborn natures.
This proves that Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's great compassionate vow to save all beings possesses inexhaustible divine powers."
Readers may think that this story is a myth. But it really happened here in this jail - you can ask and find out. Or, if you think that you should not see a doctor if you are a Buddhist, I offer the following: Those whose practice has given them deep faith in Buddha, do not need to see a doctor, since the depth of their faith has caused a supernatural reaction. Pain and pleasure are both the result of karma, and therefore their whole mind is focused on liberation, on the conversion of living beings. For example, if the clothes you are wearing rip somewhere, then you sew a patch there. If there is another hole, then you sew on another patch. You keep doing this until the article of clothing is completely beyond repair, then you can throw it away and it doesn't matter.
In general, as followers of the Buddha, we should be honest and sincere. We must be penitent and recite the Buddha's name before we will have access to spiritual inspiration. If you do not have such access, then it means that you are not genuinely penitent, your mind has craving, or the karmic obstacles from previous lives are too great. If you are devout in your reverence to Bodhisattvas, then large problems will become small, and small problems will become non-existent. For everyone who has already taken refuge in the Triple Gem, you should also understand causality in the three worlds and take charge of this time of non-freedom; it is a good opportunity for spiritual practice, repeating the Buddha's name. Just like the Dharma teachers10 who meditate in solitude, we should never forget the Buddha for even a moment, seeking rebirth in Western Paradise. That is the only way to take refuge in eternal happiness.
(10) Life After Death
by Wang Yan
Hu Zhaifan once selected Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow to annotate in colloquial Chinese. His work circulated in Buddhist bookstores, selling tens of thousands of copies. The merit for this is extremely great.
On July 30, 1932, his daughter Yuezhao, then only four years old, suddenly had a seizure, her pupils shrunk, face and lips darkened, she stopped breathing, foamed at the mouth, and died. He pried apart her teeth to give her medicine, but she did not swallow it. The whole family was frightened and upset. Then Hu Zhaifan woke up to the fact that it was Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's's birthday. He went before the Bodhisattva, sadly praying for divine aid. When he finished praying, he heard a happy cry from the other room. His daughter was breathing again. They were overjoyed. She was able to take medicine and recovered shortly thereafter.
(12) Recovering from a Serious Illness
by Wang Yan
Ven. Guang Yuan was a Bhiksuni from Haizheng, in Fujian Province. Her father was a martyr for the Nationalist Party, giving his life in Guangzhou. Guan Yuan became a nun at Mt. Jiuhua, then later lived in Macao. Later she went to Xiamen11 to study Vinaya. The next year she came down with a stomach illness, unable to eat even a bowl of rice porridge. The illness lingered, and she suffered extreme pain. Neither Western nor Chinese medicine had any effect. One day while perusing Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Holy Virtue,12 edited by Ven. Hong Yi, she came across an image of the Bodhisattva. The dignity and holiness she saw aroused a great joy in her, so she bought some incense, flowers and fruit to be offered before the holy image, and worshipped reverently. Then for seven days, she repented in silence. Every evening she offered a vessel of purified water before the Bodhisattva's image. She silently recited his name day and night. The next morning she drank the purified water. Not long after that, she was able to eat a whole bowl of porridge, then half a month after that, her ailment was cured.
(12) An Eye Ailment Disappears
by Hui Zhou
Tao Xiquan, a lay Buddhist, grew up in Hangzhou county, living on Hujulaida Rd. He had always been a Buddhist, and he was especially devout in his faith in Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. In his house, there was a Buddhist altar. His mother, whose surname was Duanmu, also recited the name of Amitabha Buddha every day. Shi Wenqing, their servant, had long suffered an eye ailment, but was suddenly cured one day. Xiquan was surprised by her speedy recovery, and so he asked her about it. She answered, "I dreamt I was standing before your altar with your mother. Since my eyes had been ailing me for so long, she told me to take the water that had been offered before the Bodhisattva and wash my eyes with it. Doing so felt extremely cool and refreshing. When I awoke, I rubbed my eyes and the ailment was gone!" He said, full of praise, "The Bodhisattva's vow is vast and deep; with a compassionate heart he saves beings from suffering. He is a great doctor-king!"
(13) The Merit of Making a Statue
by Luo Yuanhao
Since she was 60, my mother, Mrs. Li suffered from a condition that caused her legs to become numb and sore every winter. It left her unable to walk properly until springtime, when it healed itself. In the winter of 1923, when she was 69, her legs were causing her excruciating pain, so much that she lay in bed for over a month, frequently moaning in pain. It seemed that the only thing to do was chant Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Original Vow and do prostrations every day, to pray for his blessing of compassion. One day while reading the chapter, "Tathagata's Praise", I suddenly had an insight. The text read:
Take something that the sick person cherishes, like clothing, or a
treasured object, or decorations from the house, and say loudly before
that person: "I, (name), in the interest of this person who is sick, give up
this object before the image and sutras, an offering to the image and
sutras, in order to make a statue of the Buddha or a Bodhisattva."
After reading this, I made a vow before the Buddha, that I would have a statue of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva made for my mother. When I told her this, she said happily, "Illness is nothing other than karma; we must depend on the divine power of the Buddha's compassion. Today you have made a vow to have a statue made, that is very much in harmony with my heart. I have a pearl that your grandmother gave me. It is perfectly round and lustrous. Since I miss my mother, I treasure it very much. Now I will give this pearl as an offering to the Bodhisattva. Is that good?"
I sought out a well known statue artist, Jingshan Jun, who knew the proper way to make a Buddhist statue. The roughcast was made from bronze, then gold-plated. The pearl was inlaid between the eyebrows, to represent fine white light.13 The statue was completed in just over 20 days. Jingshan brought the statue to us, and we could see that it embodied joy and compassion. It was quite magnificent. Jingshan said himself that for as long as he has been making statues, he has never made one like this. I immediately took it in to show my bedridden mother. Her pain immediately ceased, she got out of bed, and walked into the altar room. She knelt down and did prostrations of gratitude. She was now well, suddenly freed from the imprisonment of illness. Everyone who heard about this praised the speed at which the supernatural reaction of the Bodhisattva's compassion operates. It is truly inconceivable! Subsequently, we asked Jingshan to make over 10 more statues of the Bodhisattvas.
My mother had already been a vegetarian and practiced Buddha recitation for a long time. When she recovered from her illness, she intensified her practice, and was able to walk with great ease. She lived until December 21, 1929, when she was 75. She was reciting the Buddha's name as she passed on to Western Paradise.
1There is a container, filled with many long flat qian sticks, in many Chinese Buddhist temples. Each stick has a different phrase or poem printed on it. It is a custom for people with questions about their lives to shake the container, to let one qian stick drop out then to see what advice it gives. This is called qiu qian.
2An ancient name for India; understood as the world
3 Mazu is a well-known local deity, worshipped in southern China and Taiwan, literally "the Matriarch".
4Those that carry the common person along through life: views, desires, becoming and ignorance
6A popular multi-religion syncretist movement in Taiwan and China
7A chapter in the Lotus Sutra. It is also known as Guanyin Jing (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Sutra)
8This is a Chinese Buddhist custom for those who are not complete vegetarians.
9zhu lei ren tian pin
10"Dharma teacher" is a direct translation of the Chinese title "Fashi" which refers to Buddhist monks.
11Formerly known as Amoy
12Dizang Pusa Shengde Daguan
13The Buddha was reputed to have the ability to radiate a fine white light