THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
“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 Bodhisattva, let me repeat, 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 Earth Store, or who are able to exhort one or more others to do likewise. They transform themselves and others; they save themselves and others. Now and in the future, such people will be surrounded day and night by hundreds of thousands of ghosts and spirits who will protect them and even prevent bad news, inauspicious sounds, and awful things from reaching their ears, much less allow them to be personally involved in any accidents such as car accidents, drownings, fires, plane crashes, train derailments, bus driving into the cliff. They do not experience those problems because many Dharma-protecting good spirits protect them all the time. Yesterday someone said that he was scared of taking a flight for fear that the plane will crash. Do not be scared, as long as you recite the Great Compassion Mantra and Shurangama Mantra, then many gods, dragons, Dharma-protecting good spirits of the eightfold pantheon all support you. As long as you do not have false thoughts and constantly believe in the Bodhisattva, he will protect you. Buddhists need not be afraid. Do not be afraid of ghosts because they will bow to you due to your merit and virtue. If you have none because you do not know about doing good deeds, then bad things will occur. Maintain good intentions and do good deeds, then none of the bad things will happen.
“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 as a group or even alone as one person 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.
“Moreover, again the Buddha talked to Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, in the future, evil people who commit the Five Rebellious Acts and the Ten Evils, and evil spirits who are deviant spirits because they do not observe the rules criticize good men and good women. Some deviant spirits also go to temples such as temples where offerings are made to Lord Guan. Lord Guan is not always there; on the occasions when Lord Guan is absent, he goes to the temple, pretending to be Lord Guan to enjoy bloody flesh. People may offer him swine, lamb, or cow, all of which are food with blood that he enjoys. There are big evil ghosts such as kumbhanda ghosts that look like a winter melon. These ghosts are also called ghosts that press on people while these people are sleeping. These big evil ghosts make such sleeping individuals mute and immobile. There are also small evil ghosts who may possess plants to display their spiritual powers so that people will believe them. For example, Nanhua Monastery had a camphor tree go and receive the precepts. Before it even received the precepts, it wielded its spiritual powers. For instance, anyone who goes there to light incense will receive a response such as recovery from some illness. Or someone recovers his lost items after lighting incense before this tree. There was a variety of others. That person thinks that this is true miracles from a Bodhisattva, so he may go and show his appreciation with offerings of sacrificial chickens, pigs, or other animals. With these items, he has food to eat. These are small evil ghosts. There are innumerable things in this world, so if you do not understand the Buddhadharma, you may very easily think that this type of evil spirits and evil ghosts are truly efficacious Bodhisattvas. People who study the Buddhadharma ought not to think that the Buddhadharma is something to do with miracles. No. Understand the principles in the Buddhadharma to avoid such deceptions.
Or 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. Evil people may then say, “Hey, you are too superstitious. What is the use of bowing to clay or wooden images? Doing these things is completely without merit. Do not believe this stuff.” They ask you what the use of bowing to idol images? Some non-Buddhists, for example, believe there is no merit to bowing to pagan idols. They may sneer at those good people who are bowing. They sneer with their teeth showing to show that they look down on all of you who are too superstitious. Or they condemn them behind their backs. They do not say anything in front of your face, but after you leave, they say, “That group of people at Buddhist Lecture Hall is really superstitious. I do not know what they are doing as they wear that robe and sash bowing to the Buddhas then getting up, getting up then bowing. I do not know how it is meaningful for them to recite sutras and to bow to the Buddhas all day.” They sabotage, slander, and criticize people behind their backs. Why should a cultivator bow to the Buddhas? How is bowing to the Buddhas useful? I might as well sleep with that time. Or they get a group together or alone as only one person have even as little as one thought of condemnation or tease.Perhaps they do not criticize others personally, but they abet others in avoiding sutra recitations, “What is good about reciting sutras? Do not bow to the Buddhas or listen to the sutras! The time you spend on listening to the sutras might as well be spent on taking some drugs so that you feel like you are in the Land of Ultimate Bliss! Why believe in that stuff?” Encouraging others to be like him, he may find a companion who will defy the rules in a certain situation or a Buddhist group because he knows that he will not be tolerated alone. With a companion, he seems to have some excuse. If you criticize him, then he will say, “Other people are this way too!” With companions, his power grows. They do not have to be doing sabotage all the time, but just for one thought, tease and speak sarcastically to slander such individuals.
Such beings who sneer or criticize others behind their backs, alone or with a group 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. Our present eon is the Worthy Eon. How is this eon Worthy? Many sages and worthy individuals appear at this time, including one thousand Buddhas, among which Shakyamuni Buddha is the fourth. There are 996 more Buddhas who will emerge. The time between one Buddha and the next is a long time. So the length of time during which one thousand Buddhas come into being is a long time to endure in the Avici Hell, the very serious retribution of having destroyed the Buddhadharma.
We should know that one day and one night in our world is 60 small eons in the Avici Hell. Fifty years in our human realm is one day and a night in the Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings. One hundred years in the human realm is one day and a night in the Tryastrimsha Heaven. One day and a night in the human realm is 60 small eons in the Avici Hell. Why? Someone who is happy may feel that the day was very short and went by very quickly. When someone is very sad and finds things to be very unpleasant, such as when you are waiting for someone or for some occurrence, then one will feel that the day is extremely long. From this we know why one day and one night in the human realm is 60 small eons in the hells. It is too miserable in the hells. While beings are suffering, they find the time to be too long; while beings are enjoying themselves, they do not find the time to be long at all.
Only after that one thousand Buddhas come into being during the Worthy Eon will these hell beings be reborn among the hungry ghosts, where they will spend a thousand more eons before being reborn as animals. Only after another thousand eons of birth and death will they obtain human bodies, but they will be poor and lowly. America has this ‘give to the poor’ movement. I criticize this because giving to the poor is useless. People’s poverty is derived not in this lifetime, but comes because of karma from endless offenses in endless eons. Your help is only temporary and not constant. To really help the poor requires promoting various charity events, encouraging people to do good deeds, and encouraging others to change for the better and be good. This would be the way to really help the poor. Also, do not tell people to slander the Triple Jewel; promote the Buddhadharma everywhere you go so that the Triple Jewel of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha will abide in the world for people to plant blessings. People who make offerings to the Triple Jewel enjoy retributions of blessings so that they will not be poor in the future; that is to truly help the poor. People who slander the Triple Jewel will be in the hells for one thousand eons after as long a time as one thousand Buddhas appearing in the Worthy Eon, then among the hungry ghosts for one thousand eons, among the animals for one thousand eons, then become human beings. As human beings, they are extremely poor and low-class.
With incomplete faculties such as no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, hands, feet, body and mind. What happens to someone without a tongue? They cannot talk without a tongue. People have two eyes and they only have one eye. Is this attractive? Perhaps they only have one ear. This makes their six sense organs incomplete. And their evil karma will cause them to suffer mental afflictions. In general, everything goes against their wishes; they are either without food, clothes, or lodging. Otherwise, they encounter accidents such as the various accidents described earlier. Before long, they will fall into the Evil Paths again. Not long after being a human being, he falls into the Three Evil Paths again. Bright Eyes’ mother that we talked about earlier, for example, was born in her daughter’s household, but then dies at the age of thirteen and falls into the evil paths.
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?
Therefore, Universally Expansive, you should know, such are the retributions that those who ridicule and slander others’ acts of worship in making offerings to Earth Store Bodhisattva will undergo. For this type of evil retribution, they would even have to be in the hells for one thousand eons, among the hungry ghosts for another one thousand eons, among the animals for another thousand eons, then become human beings with the retribution of being poor, lowly and disabled. Someone wonders, “Must they endure one thousand eons to become human beings? Is this definite? Right, that is for sure. Shakyamuni Buddha personally established the laws for the hells. However, there is an exception that is not for certain. What is this special scenario? During the one thousand eons they must endure, hungry ghosts, for example, became compassionate and want to protect people and other cultivators, to bow along with people who are bowing to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and protect such cultivators. Having established merits such as these, they do not have to complete one thousand eons to be humans or animals.
Or as animals, they draw close to Buddhists so they live in the temples or Buddhist families so that they practice and cultivate imperceptibly so that they believe in the Buddhas. Believing in the Buddhas, their offense karma is reduced so that they do not have to be in the animal realm for one thousand eons; they become reborn as human beings. While Elder Master Hsu Yun was at Yunnan, for example, a chicken was brought to the temple. The chicken cultivated along with the temple residents; when the monks recite the Buddha’s name in the ceremonies, it also followed along in circumambulating and reciting the Buddha’s name. After three years, it passed away standing before the Buddhas. All these are a special set of circumstances that exempts it from enduring one thousand eons before becoming a human being. Were poor, lowly, and disabled individuals to know the reasons for their retribution, they would know that it is because they slandered the Triple Jewel, refused to listen to the Buddhadharma, and were not respectful to Earth Store King Bodhisattva. Now that they changed, they are bold and diligent; perhaps they are vegetarians who recite the Buddha’s name or cultivate, even leaving the homelife to become Bhikshus. In reforming and renewing themselves, they will avoid falling into the evil paths soon.
In general, depending on each living being’s special set of circumstances, one may not have to go through such a long time of retribution. The Buddhadharma is flexible and principled. You do not have to spend a long time suffering after repenting. The Chapter on Universal Worthy’s Conduct and Vows says that people’s offense karma are invisible; were it to be material, then each individual’s karmic obstruction would fill space to the brim and crack it open. Fortunately, karmic obstruction is invisible, so there is no need to prepare a place to preserve it, so it does not matter how much there is of it. If you can repent, then however much offense karma can be eliminated, that is why it says, “Bowing once to the Buddhas eliminates offenses as many as grains of sand.” Truly repentant while bowing to the Buddhas, then offense karma as many as grains of sand in the rivers will disappear. “Give away one penny and add infinite blessings.” Donate to the Triple Jewel to the best of your ability, giving away however much you have, then you will enjoy infinite blessings as retribution, so long as you are sincere while you make your offerings. Everything is uncertain because the Dharma is not fixed. People’s karmic obstructions are not fixed either.
How much worse will the retributions be if, besides their slandering, they have other evil views. Not to mention if you develop some evil view to wreck the Triple Jewel in particular, then your offense karma will be even greater.
“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.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive . Shakyamuni Buddha told Universally Expansive again: Let me elaborate a bit more for you, Universally Expansive! In the future, men or women who receive and cultivate the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds may be bedridden for a long time. Why are they bedridden? No need to ask, it is obviously because of some illness so that they are paralyzed and cannot get up. Why would someone become paralyzed? The source of the sickness is heavy lust because when paralyzed, one’s legs are unusable. Legs are connected to the kidneys. Too much lust and the legs cannot walk. For instance, many people on the streets are disabled because of their swollen legs. To walk, they require the help of a cane. Their legs were not injured or amputated in a battle. They are disabled though they have not incurred any injury or accident. This type of individual has too much lust. There are many Americans with this problem. Why? They do not know the harm in this and fail to realize why their legs are this way even at the time of death. Consequently, they frequently remain immobile in their beds. And, in spite of their wishes, be unable either to get well or to die. They cannot live well or die well. Is that painful? They cannot do so either way.
At night they may dream of evil ghosts . Some people dream of evil ghosts and follow them in doing all kinds of bad things; the more they do these things, the worse their illnesses get. Some examples of bad things that occur when they dream of evil ghosts, and they are clear that these are evil ghosts, and yet they follow them and eat bad things, do bad things, or even engage in sexual activity in their dreams. Or they dream of family and relatives such as their deceased father or mother. These are negative occurrences because these relatives, any relative who knows you in fact, brings ghosts to the patient with the awful sickness then leaves. The ghosts then use their various corrupt powers to make the patient’s sickness worse by the day. Or they dream of wandering on dangerous paths, such as falling off a mountain top and being terrified. Various inauspicious things occur in the dreams that scare these patients so that they are awfully afraid. In their dreams, tigers, wolves, or monsters may come along as they stroll along. In general, all kinds of frightful things occur.
In numerous nightmares they may roam with ghosts and spirits. Kumbhandas may appear in their dreams often, perhaps three times or five times a night. They keep appearing because they feel their affinities with you are not done yet. You are pressed upon so that you cannot utter any sound. You cannot breath, and you cannot move, while your eyes are open as if in some demonic state of concentration. This would be a demonic state of concentration, not a proper state of concentration. There are different states of concentration and we should not enter this type of deviant concentration. These patients befriend ghosts and spirits in their dreams when they clearly know that they are ghosts. They go places with these ghosts. They do not know to be afraid of these ghosts in their dreams; they only become afraid when they wake up.
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.
As days, months and years go by, such people may become weak and emaciated . For a long time, not just one or two days, these people were very weak and emaciated. There are five types of phtisis and seven types of injuries. All five types of phtisis are incurable.They cry out in pain in their sleep. They wake up screaming because they were being pursued by ghosts, hit by ghosts, or caught by ghosts. And they become progressively more depressed and melancholy. They always wear a miserable look on their face, as if they’re about to cry. They are never happy. Those things happen when the force of their karma has not yet been determined. Why is this? Their offense karma is being evaluated in the hells. Their offense karma is being discussed as to whether it is slight or heavy. Although they have not died yet and the question is being discussed in the hells, they are unhappy while alive. They are miserable because they committed offenses and they know they will go to the hells in the future. Making it difficult for them to die and impossible for them to be cured. They may want to die but cannot, or not so soon. Or their illnesses do not heal so quickly. The ordinary eyes of men and women cannot perceive such phenomena. Men and women do not know about this because they do not have the power of the heavenly eye and the power of knowing past lives.
What can they do considering that they do not understand? There is a way! “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. Before any of the Buddha or Bodhisattva image, whether it is before an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva or other Bodhisattva images if you do not have an Earth Store Bodhisattva image, recite the Earth Store Sutra very loudly. Or they could offer to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas possessions that the sick person cherishes, such as clothing, jewels, properties, gardens, or houses. They should speak distinctly or loud enough to the sick person, saying, “Now before this Earth Store Sutra or these images of Earth Store Bodhisattva and others, we, say our names, are offering these items that the patient values the most, such as gardens, dwellings, clothing, and other material goods on behalf of this sick person.” They state the patient’s name. They may offer sutras or images, or commission images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, the greatest merit, or build jeweled stupas or monasteries, or light oil lamps before the Buddhas, or give to the Eternally Dwelling in the temples.
They should tell the sick persons three times so that the sick hear it each time 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 (the eye consciousness, the ear consciousness, the nose consciousness, the tongue consciousness, the body consciousness, the sixth consciousness, the seventh consciousness, and the eighth consciousness 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 and loudly. When those sick people’s lives end, they will gain liberation from all their heavy and disastrous offenses committed in previous lives, even grave 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 Earth Store 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.