THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Chapter VI

The Thus Come One’s Praises

At that time the World Honored One emitted a great bright light from his entire body, totally illuminating Buddhalands as many as grains of sand in millions of billions of Ganges Rivers. His strong voice reached all the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas in those Buddhalands, as well as the gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits, humans, non-humans, and others, as he said, “Listen today, as I praise Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, who displays inconceivable awesome spiritual strength and compassionate power throughout the ten directions in rescuing and protecting beings who are suffering for offenses they have committed. After I pass into tranquility, all of you Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas and all of you gods, dragons, ghosts, spirits, and others should use vast numbers of expedient means to protect this sutra and to cause all beings to attain the bliss of Nirvana.”

After that was said, a Bodhisattva named Universally Expansive rose in the assembly, placed his palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, “We are now about to witness the World Honored One praising Earth Store Bodhisattva’s inconceivably great awesome spiritual virtue. We hope that the World Honored One will also aid beings in the future Dharma-Ending Age by telling us about how Earth Store Bodhisattva benefits people and gods and about the workings of cause and effect. That will help the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division, along with beings of the future, to receive the Buddha’s teaching respectfully.”

At that time, the World Honored One said to the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, and to all those in the fourfold assembly, “Listen attentively, listen attentively. I will briefly describe to you how Earth Store Bodhisattva’s virtuous deeds keep benefiting people and gods.”

Universally Expansive replied, “Excellent, World-Honored One. We will be happy to listen.”

The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, “If, in the future, good men or women, upon hearing Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva’s name, place their palms together, praise him, bow to him, or gaze at him in worship, they will overcome thirty eons’ worth of offenses. Universally Expansive, if good men or women gaze upon and bow but once to painted or drawn images of the Bodhisattva or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, gold, silver or bronze, they will be reborn one hundred times in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Destinies. If their blessings in the heavens come to an end and they are born in the human realm, they will become national leaders who will suffer no loss of benefits.

“There may be women who dislike having female bodies. Suppose they wholeheartedly make offerings to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva, such as paintings or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, brass, iron or other materials. If they continually make offerings day after day without fail, of flowers, incense, food, drink, clothing, colored silks, banners, money, jewels, and other items, then when those good women finish their current female retributions, throughout thousands of millions of eons they will never again be born in worlds where there are women, much less be one, unless they choose to through the strength of their compassionate vows, in order to liberate beings. Based on the strength of their offerings to Earth Store Bodhisattva and the power of their meritorious virtues, they will not be born with female bodies for hundreds of thousands of eons.

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, some women may have imperfect features or be prone to sickness. Disliking those problems, they can sincerely gaze at and bow to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva with sincere resolve for even just a few minutes, and consequently, throughout millions of future eons of rebirth, they will continually be endowed with full and perfect features. If those women whose features are currently imperfect do not dislike having female bodies, then throughout millions of billions of lives they will always be born as women of royal lineage, or will marry into royalty, or will become daughters of prime ministers, or women in prominent families, or daughters of great elders. They will be of upright birth and full-featured. They will receive such blessings from having sincerely beheld and worshipped Earth Store Bodhisattva.

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, there may be good men or women who are able to play music, sing, or chant praises and make offerings of incense and flowers before images of the Bodhisattva, or who are able to exhort one or more others to do likewise. Now and in the future, such people will be surrounded day and night by hundreds of thousands of ghosts and spirits who will even prevent bad news from reaching their ears, much less allow them to be personally involved in any accidents.

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, in the future, evil people, evil spirits, or evil ghosts may see good men or women taking refuge with, respectfully making offerings to, praising, beholding, and bowing to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Those beings may make the mistake of ridiculing such acts of worship, saying that they are of no merit. They may sneer at those good people, condemn them behind their backs, or get a group or even one other person to have even as little as one thought of condemnation. Such beings will fall into the Avici Hell, and the extreme misery they will undergo as retribution for their slander will not end even after the Thousand Buddhas of the Worthy Eon have passed into tranquility. Only after that eon will they be reborn among the hungry ghosts, where they will spend a thousand more eons before being reborn as animals. Only after another thousand eons will they obtain human bodies, but they will be poor and lowly with incomplete faculties, and their evil karma will cause them to suffer mental afflictions. Before long, they will fall into the Evil Paths again. Universally Expansive, such are the retributions that those who ridicule and slander others’ acts of worship will undergo. How much worse will the retributions be if, besides their slandering, they have other evil views.

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, in the future, men or women may be bedridden for a long time and, in spite of their wishes, be unable either to get well or to die. At night they may dream of evil ghosts, or of family and relatives, or of wandering on dangerous paths. In numerous nightmares they may roam with ghosts and spirits. As days, months and years go by, such people may become weak and emaciated, cry out in pain in their sleep, and become progressively more depressed and melancholy. Those things happen when the force of their karma has not yet been determined, making it difficult for them to die and impossible for them to be cured. The ordinary eyes of men and women cannot perceive such phenomena. 

“In that situation, other people should recite this sutra out loud once before images of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on behalf of any such sick person. Or they could offer to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas possessions that the sick person cherishes, such as clothing, jewels, gardens, or houses. They should speak distinctly to the sick person, saying, “Now before this sutra or these images, we are offering these items on behalf of this sick person.” They may offer sutras or images, or commission images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or build stupas or monasteries, or light oil lamps, or give to the Eternally Dwelling. They should tell the sick persons three times about the offerings that are being made, making sure that they both hear and understand what is being done.

“If the sick people’s consciousnesses are already scattered and their breathing has stopped, then for one, two, three, four, and on through seven days, the other people should continue to inform them clearly of the offerings and to read this sutra out loud. When those sick people’s lives end, they will gain liberation from all their heavy and disastrous offenses committed in previous lives, even offenses warranting Fivefold Relentless Retribution. They will be born in places where they will always know past lives, so how much greater will the karmic rewards be if good men or women can write out this sutra themselves or commission others to do so, or if they can carve or paint images themselves or commission others to do so. The benefits they receive will be great indeed!

“Therefore, Universally Expansive, if you see people reading and reciting this sutra or even having a single thought of praise for it, or if you meet someone who reveres it, you should employ hundreds of thousands of expedients to exhort such people to be diligent and not retreat. In both the present and the future, they will be able to obtain thousands of billions of inconceivable meritorious benefits.

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, beings in the future, while dreaming or drowsy, may see ghosts, spirits, and other forms that are either sad, weeping, worried, fearful, or terrified. Those are all fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and other relatives from one, ten, a hundred, or a thousand lives past who have not yet been able to leave the bad destinies. They have nowhere to turn for the powerful blessings needed to rescue them, and so they try to communicate with their closest descendants, hoping that those relatives will use some skillful means to help them get out of the Evil Paths. Universally Expansive, using your spiritual power, exhort those descendants to recite this sutra with sincere resolve before the images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas or to request others to recite it, either three or seven times. When the Sutra has been read aloud the proper number of times, relatives in the Evil Paths will obtain liberation and never again appear to those who are dreaming or drowsy.

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, people of low station, and those who are slaves, or bonded, or deprived of their freedom in other ways, may be aware of their past deeds and wish to repent of them and reform. If, while beholding and bowing to Earth Store Bodhisattva’s image with sincere resolve for seven days, they are able to recite his name a full ten thousand times, then when their current retribution ends, those people will always be born into wealth and honor for hundreds of thousands of lives. How much the more will they avoid any of the sufferings of the Three Evil Paths.

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, in the future in Jambudvipa when the wives of Kshatriyas, Brahmans, Elders, and Upasakas of the various families and clans are about to give birth to sons or daughters, the family members should recite this inconceivable sutra and the Bodhisattva’s name a full ten thousand times during the seven days before the birth of those children. If those infants, whether male or female, had been destined to undergo a terrible retribution for things done in past lives, they will be liberated from those retributions. They will be peaceful, happy, easily raised, and will have long lives. If those children were due to receive blessings, then their peace and happiness will increase, as will their lifespans.

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, on the first, eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, eighteenth, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth days of the lunar month, the offenses of beings are tabulated and their gravity assessed. Every single movement or stirring of thought on the part of beings of Jambudvipa creates karma and offenses. How much more is that the case when they blatantly indulge in killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech and hundreds of thousands of other kinds of offenses. If they are able to recite this Sutra once on those ten vegetarian days, before the images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or worthy ones and sages, then no disasters will occur within a radius of one hundred yojanas around them. The relatives of those who recite, both old and young, now and in the future, will be apart from the evil paths throughout hundreds of thousands of years. If they can recite this sutra once on each of these ten vegetarian days, then there will be no accidents or illnesses in the family, and they will have food and clothing in abundance.

“Universally Expansive, you should know of the beneficial deeds done by Earth Store Bodhisattva as he makes use of his indescribably millions of billions of great awesome spiritual powers. The beings of Jambudvipa have strong affinities with this Bodhisattva. If they hear the Bodhisattva’s name, see the Bodhisattva’s image, or hear but a few words, a verse, or a sentence of this Sutra, they will enjoy particularly wonderful peace and happiness in this present life. Through thousands of millions of future lives, they will always be handsome or beautiful, and they will be born into honorable and wealthy families.”

Having heard the Buddha, Thus Come One, praise Earth Store Bodhisattva in that way, Universally Expansive Bodhisattva knelt, placed his palms together, and again addressed the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, I have long known that this Bodhisattva has both inconceivable spiritual powers and mighty vows. I have questioned the Thus Come One so that beings in the future could know of these benefits. I now receive your answer most respectfully. World Honored One, what should the title of this sutra be, and how should we propagate it?”

The Buddha said to Universally Expansive, “This Sutra has three titles: the first is The Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva; it is also called Earth Store’s Past Conduct; and also Sutra of the Power of Earth Store’s Past Vows. Because this Bodhisattva repeatedly makes such great and mighty vows throughout long eons to benefit beings, you should all propagate this Sutra in accordance with them.”

After Universally Expansive had heard that, he placed his palms together respectfully, made obeisance, and withdrew.

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