THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Sutra:

“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.

Commentary:

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, Shakyamuni Buddha says: Let me explain it again for you in detail. If beings in the future, while dreaming or drowsy, while asleep or not quite in deep sleep. . .

There are dreams due to ignorant habits. Individuals with muddled habits that come from ignorance have these dreams so they do not remember anything when they wake up from their dream. There are dreams of premonition. Their dreams foretell some fortunate or unfortunate occurrence. For instance, Elder Master Hsu Yun dreamt of the Sixth Patriarch saying, “You’re going back! You’re going to go there to do some work!” Elder Master Hsu Yun thought returning meant that he was about to die; but it was actually telling him to go to Nanhua Monastery to repair the temple. This is an auspicious omen that foretold an event through a dream. Some people dream about being careful, otherwise they would die in a car accident. They do not believe it and indeed crashed the next day. They do not believe it and die in a car accident the next day. This is a dream that foretells events. There are also dreams due to imbalanced four elements. The four elements are earth, water, fire, and wind. According to medical texts, there are 404 human diseases and 808 antidotes. Actually there are 84,000 forms of human illnesses; that is why the Buddhadharma says there are 84,000 practices that cure 84,000 illnesses. When the four elements are not in balance; such as an excess of earth, being an antidote for water, makes one sick; an excess of fire, being an antidote for water, makes one sick; or an excess of wind, being an antidote for earth, makes one sick. These are illnesses from an imbalance of the four elements. There are so dreams about old time, long lost friends. What kind of dreams are these? For instance, I have not seen someone that I knew for a long time. I was happy to see him appear in my dream. I wake up though and realize that it is not real. These are dreams about long lost friends. There are as many dreams as described above.

In their sleep or before dozing off, all beings may see ghosts, spirits with green faces, red hair, huge mouths, and sharp teeth the length of elephant tusks, and other strange and scary forms that are either sad, weeping, tearing or dripping snot, worried, fearful, or terrified. They may see scenes of their relatives who are very sad, miserable, and sigh. 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 fallen into and have not yet been able to leave the bad destinies of the hells, evil ghosts, and animals. This is why we should see all beings as our parents from the past and Buddhas in the future. If we consider living beings our parents in the past, then we should be filial and not cause problems for living beings. If we consider living beings future Buddhas, then we should be filial and not cause problems for living beings. Hopeless, they have nowhere to turn for the powerful blessings needed to rescue them, such as through reciting the sutras and doing some meritorious deeds. According to the Buddhist teachings, as said in the Earth Store Sutra, sutra recitations are done for the deceased and those not yet deceased. The power of blessings comes from reciting the sutras. And so they try to communicate with their closest descendants in their former lives, hoping that those relatives will use some skillful means to help them get out of the Evil Paths.

Universally Expansive, Shakyamuni Buddha called out again, using your spiritual power, exhort those descendants to recite this Earth Store Sutra with sincere resolve before the images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas or to request or employ others to recite it, either three or seven times. These odd numbers are yang numbers; the even numbers are yin numbers. Yang numbers are symbols of breaking through the offense karmas of the hells. When the Earth Store 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.

Sutra:

“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.

Commentary:

“Moreover, Universally Expansive, Shakyamuni Buddha says to him again: people of low station. We are all people, so how come there are people who belong to high class society and people who are lowly? There are five paths that lead people to the retribution of belong to the lowest class. One is arrogance. Most people are arrogant to outsiders; but this kind of arrogance refers to being conceited with regard to and disrespectful toward one’s parents. The second reason is obstinacy. They do not respect teachers and elders. These obstinate beings refuse to obey teachers’ and elders’ teachings. The third reason is laxness, which is about not adhering to the rules. That does not matter so much; they are not even respectful toward the Triple Jewel. These three reasons make them become low-class individuals, including the poor. The affluent do not belong to the lowest class, whereas the poor do. The fourth kind is because they like to steal in lives past. Penniless, they steal things, money, or jewelry that is sold in turn. Sustaining themselves for a period of time with what they stole, they do nothing but eat, drink, whore, gamble, and do drugs (such as opium) meanwhile. They do not need to work because of what they have stolen. When they finish up the money, they steal again, and they do nothing again for some time. They sustain themselves by stealing like this. This is the fourth reason why they are poor and of the lowest-class. What do you think the fifth reason is? The fifth is evading their debts. People cannot be unaccountable for even one penny, not to mention more than that. Though money is fake, you cannot use it casually. Though money is fake, it is necessary for doing real work. We cannot be casual about this at all. For example, you may think it is a bargain to borrow money then abscond with it. Actually, it is no bargain because by evading debts, you will be poor and lowly in future lives; that will be the retribution. Above are the five reasons for becoming someone of low station.

And those who are slaves, servants, or bonded, or deprived of their freedom in other ways have to listen to their master’s orders and cannot go anywhere as they please, may be aware of their past deeds and wish to repent of them and reform. If they know that they must have incurred grave offenses and accumulated heavy karma from lives past, they must repent now. They bow the Great Compassion Repentance, the Pureland Repentance or other repentances. Why do we bow the Great Compassion Repentance? We do this because we repent of offenses, though we do not know about our offenses in lives past. 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. They will always be born in elite families and never endure the pain of the Three Evil Paths.

There are five reasons for poverty and several reasons for nobility too. First is vastly giving and benefiting, being greatly compassionate with everyone. Second is being respectful toward parents, teachers, and elders. We ought not to hate our father for bringing us into the world, yelling at him, “Why did you have to have me? You jerk!” Or think about our master in this way: “You do not let me have any freedom. I have to listen to you on everything. This is too unfair.” We are dissatisfied with our master in various ways. We bow to our master but criticize our master behind his back. This is about not being respectful to our parents, teachers, and elders, one of the reasons why we are not born in an elite family. Is that harsh? Do not bother with whether I am a good master or not. You cannot criticize me because there is offense in that and you will not become born in an elite family. Second, respect parents, teachers, and elders. Earlier we talked about not being respectful; now we have to be respectful toward our parents, teachers, and elders. Third, being respectful and bow to the Triple Jewel. Earlier we talked about not being respectful and not bowing to the Triple Jewel. This here is about being respectful and bowing to the Triple Jewel and all elders. Fourth, we must be patient, not angry, but gentle and humble. You must be happy and not at all afflicted no matter who scolds you. Be patient when someone yells at you; be even more patient when someone beats you. Cultivate patience so that you are free of hatred, anger, and temper. It is not easy to acquire good retribution. Furthermore, you have to be gentle and humble. Be polite and courteous to everyone. What is the fifth? It is erudition through listening to more sutras, encountering more Dharmas, and studying more precepts. These five reasons cause people to become elites who are rich and powerful. But it is not enough just to be rich and powerful due to causes in lives past. It would be best to be replete with these five conditions; though just one condition will prevent someone from becoming born in a poor and lowly family. How come someone is so fine? So noble? It is through their past deeds. We do not acquire this kind of blessings so simply in this one lifetime. People who fulfill any or all of these five criteria do not need to face the three evil destinies of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals; they can become born in elite families directly.

Sutra:

“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 er lives. If those children were due to receive blessings, then their peace and happiness will increase, as will their lifespans.

Commentary:

“Moreover, Universally Expansive. Shakyamuni Buddha again explained to Universally Expansive that in the future in Jambudvipa. . . Beings in Northern Uttarakuru of the Four Great Continents are born under trees. Labor is very easy and not at all painful; babies come right out as if chickens laying eggs. Females giving birth do not undergo so much pain like those do in Southern Jambudvipa. Very few births occur in Eastern Purvavideha, and Western Aparagodaniya because beings there have very little sexual desire, so they do not have so many children. Only beings in Southern Jambudvipa believe the more births there are, the better. Women endure tremendous pain in labor. So now we only talk about Southern Jambudvipa. When the wives of India’s nobility, the Kshatriyas, the noble clan of purity who are the Brahmans, the wealthy Elders, and Upasakas. . . The elders and upasakas have money but not official posts, while the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas enjoy nobility and affluence too. When the wives of all the various families and clans of different nationalities or race are about to give birth to sons or daughters. . . Some difficult labor situations include newborns in a horizontal or reverse position. Some newborns have difficulty coming out because it sticks out one of its legs first. Some difficult labor situations involve the baby dragging out the mother’s intestines. No matter how difficult the labor though, the family members should recite this inconceivable sutra of Earth Store and the Bodhisattva Earth Store’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 er lives. If those children did not commit any offenses and were due to receive blessings, then their peace and happiness will increase, as will their lifespans.

There is nothing certain about people’s suffering and bliss; there is nothing certain about people’s lifespans either. Fortune tellers may tell some people that they will live until thirty but they reach 40 and are still alive. What is the reason for that? The length of people’s lives is flexible rather than rigid. Do good deeds and you will extend your life; do bad deeds and your lifespan will decrease. Nothing is fixed. For instance, one baby is meant to endure a lot of suffering due to his offense karma, but recite the Earth Store Sutra or the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva for him, and his pain disappears. He will be happy, easy to raise, and live longer. You may deduce from this that nothing in life is fixed, it merely depends on how you act.

Sutra:

“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.

Commentary:

“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 all beings are tabulated and their gravity assessed. Living beings are observed and evaluated for their karma during these ten days. All the ghosts and spirits gather to check to see how much offense someone has accrued. These ten days are when beings are being investigated. Their offenses are then collected, counted and judged to see how heavy or slight each individual’s offenses are. Sentences are given accordingly.

Every single movement or stirring of thought on the part of beings of Southern Jambudvipa creates karma and offenses. Every thought that occurs during movement or stillness is offense karma. 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. Even if you do not kill or hurt others, you create offense karma just by entertaining a thought, not to mention wantonly indulging in killing and hurting living beings. Or they do improper things such as stealing and engaging in sexual misconduct. Promiscuity is not a problem in the West; but Buddhist sutras already make it very clear that all beings habitually commit grave offenses in this area. Among all evils, sexual misconduct is the most egregious. Or they brag. We are only mentioning some offenses in brief; were we to talk about offenses in more detail, we can list millions upon millions of them.

If they are able to recite this Sutra once on those ten vegetarian days. They eat pure foods rather than meat or pungent foods. They recite the Earth Store Sutra 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. A large yojana is 80 li; a medium yojana is 60 li; and a small yojana is 40 li. The relatives of those who recite, both old and young, now and in the future, will be apart from the retribution of being in the evil paths of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals and asuras throughout hundreds of thousands of years. If they can recite this Earth Store 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.

Sutra:

“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.

Commentary:

“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. Therefore, Universally Expansive, you should know that Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva has the various ineffable awesome spiritual powers numbering millions and billions like those described above. The beings of Jambudvipa have strong affinities with this Bodhisattva, the Buddha says. You see, as Chinese Buddhism comes to the United States, Earth Store Bodhisattva came too. He is with a lot of laypeople right now and helping you to cultivate. This indicates tremendous affinities not merely for the present, but strong affinities developed since many lives and many eons ago. If they hear the Bodhisattva Earth Store’s name, see the Bodhisattva Earth Store’s image, or hear but a few words. . . Listening even to these words “Earth Store Sutra” eliminates three types of delusions.

What are the three types of delusions? They are crude delusions, subtle delusions, and delusions like dust motes; they are also delusions in view, delusions in thought, and ignorance. Delusions in view are crude delusions; delusions in thought are subtle delusions; and ignorance is delusion like dust motes. You can shatter these three types of delusions, eliminating your karmic obstructions, obstructions due to retribution, and obstructions in the form of afflictions. You say, “I have been listening to the sutra for so long but I still have not eliminated any obstruction. I still have so many afflictions and a huge temper like I had before I started listening to the sutras.” With regard to obstructions in retribution, you say, “I feel that I have not eliminated any obstructions.” Your feeling indicates that you wish to eliminate them. If you did not want to, you would not even realize that you have karmic obstructions, obstructions due to retribution, and obstructions in the form of afflictions. Originally you felt that your afflictions were like your treasure and did not want to toss them. Now you feel that you have not lost them, which means you are starting to be free of afflictions. Consequently, you can eliminate your Three Obstructions, realize your Three Wisdoms: the Wisdom of Various Dharmas, All Wisdom and All Modes of Wisdom. You can certify to the Three Virtues too, which are the Virtue of the Dharma Body, the Virtue of Prajna, and the Virtue of Liberation.

Hearing just five words in this sutra, you can shatter your afflictions due to the Five Dwellings. What are the Afflictions of the Five Dwellings? They are Affliction From Dwelling in Views and Love, Affliction From Dwelling in Desire and Love, Affliction From Dwelling in Form and Love, Affliction From Dwelling in No Form and Love, and Affliction From Dwelling in Ignorance.

Loving something from seeing it and being attached to it is Affliction From Dwelling in Views and Love. Affliction From Dwelling in Desire and Love means where there is desire, there is affliction; where there is love, there is affliction. Without love, there is no hatred, which means no afflictions. No love, no hatred, and no afflictions. Affliction From Dwelling in Form and Love means attachment to objects of form. Affliction From Dwelling in No Form and Love occurs in the Formless Realm. These along with Affliction From Dwelling in Ignorance make up the Afflictions of the Five Dwellings. Encountering the Earth Store Sutra, you can eliminate the Afflictions of the Five Dwellings and transcend transmigration in the five destinies. There are actually six types of beings, but asuras are scattered among the various destinies, so we say the five destinies. This sutra can also plant and develop your Five Roots, which grow the Five Powers. The Five Roots are the roots of faith, diligence, mindfulness, Samadhi, and wisdom. The Five Powers are the powers of faith, diligence, mindfulness, Samadhi, and wisdom. These also develop the Five Aspects of the Dharma Body, which are: precepts, Samadhi, wisdom, plus liberation, and liberated knowledge and views. One can acquire the Five Aspects of the Dharma Body since one is liberated even from one’s knowledge and views.

They may transcend through one gate and enter a wonderful and adorned path by hearing the principles contained in a verse or a sentence of this Sutra. They will then acquire the perfectly bright nature that is one or the perfectly bright sea of nature. There are many principles contained herein; but I am just saying some of these terms for you. We will talk about it when we have the opportunity in time.

As a result, 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. Some people do not look right. For instance, they are born with a monkey head, the face of a horse, or eyes like a rat’s. The Chinese describe someone ugly with terms like a rabbit head, snake eyes, rat ears, and eagle cheeks. Someone does not look good when they have the features of many animals on them. Now you, however, have upright features. And they will be born into honorable and wealthy families. Those who are rich and noble have virtue. People without virtue are poor and lowly because they had slandered the Triple Jewel. Those who are born in respectable and elite families are virtuous individuals.

Having heard the Buddha, Thus Come One, praise Earth Store Bodhisattva in that way, Universally Expansive Bodhisattva knelt, placed his palms together. Some sutras say they kneel to each other. Kneeling here means genuflecting the right knee only and not the left knee. The way we kneel with both knees on the ground while we recite the sutra is not as difficult as kneeling with one knee on the ground. The Buddha allowed women to kneel with both knees on the ground but men may only genuflect with one knee. Newly ordained Bhikshus in the Sri Lankan and Burmese traditions see the more senior Bhikshus and kneel with their right knee. Novices cannot look at Bhikshus, they lower their heads, even if they are kneeling. Neither men nor women can look at elders casually. Universally Expansive put 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 all know of these benefits from Earth Store King Bodhisattva. I now receive your answer most respectfully. World Honored One, what should the title of this sutra be, and how should we propagate it? How do I, Universally Expansive and other Bodhisattvas circulate and distribute this Earth Store Sutra? We may print more of this sutra so that everyone knows about it.

The Buddha Shakyamuni 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. He wants to benefit all beings. I tell you, the way to practice the Bodhisattva path is to do whatever benefits living beings and avoid anything that harms living beings. If it is helpful, I am willing to give away even my head to someone; if it is harmful, I refuse to give away even one hair of mine. Act according to this kind of vow. You should all propagate this Sutra in accordance with them. Circulate the Earth Store Sutra according to the vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Circulate and distribute the Earth Store Sutra according to each of your Bodhisattva’s vows.” After Universally Expansive Bodhisattva had heard that, he placed his palms together respectfully, gazed up at Shakyamuni Buddha,respectfully made obeisance, and withdrew to the side.

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