THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Sutra:

In the same way, Earth Store Bodhisattva, replete with great compassion, rescues beings who are suffering for their offenses and enables them to be born among humans and gods, where they enjoy wonderful bliss.

“Once those offenders are released from the suffering they experienced on the paths where their karma took them, they must never go down those roads again. They are like the lost people who mistakenly took a dangerous path and were led to safety by a kind mentor. They know now to never take that road again. Moreover, they exhort others not to get on that road by saying, ‘We took that road ourselves when we got confused, but we escaped and now we know better than to ever get on that road again. If we were to set foot on it again, we would get confused and be unable to recognize it as the dangerous path we took before. That being the case, we might lose our lives.’ The same holds true for falling into the bad destinies. Due to the powerful expedient means of Earth Store Bodhisattva, beings can be freed and gain rebirth as humans or gods. If they were then to turn around and enter into the bad destinies again, those with heavy karmic bonds might remain in the hells forever with no chance of escape.”

Commentary:

In the same way, for these reasons, Earth Store Bodhisattva, replete with vast and boundless great kindness that bestows joy and compassion that uproots suffering, like a wise teacher rescues all beings who are suffering for their offenses and enables them to be born among humans and gods, where they leave the suffering of the Three Evil Paths and enjoy wonderful bliss in the human realm or the heavens.

“Once those offenders are released from the suffering they experienced on the Three Evil Paths where all their offense karma took them, they must never go down those roads again. They should never want to fall into the Three Evil Paths.

They are like the lost people mentioned earlier who mistakenly took a dangerous path and were led to safety by a kind and spiritually powerful mentor. They know now to never take that dangerous road again. Moreover, they exhort others not to get on that road to the three evil realms by saying, ‘We mistakenly took that dangerous road ourselves when we got confused, but we escaped, liberated from the path of danger and now we know better than to ever get on that road to the three evil realms again. If we were to set foot on it again, we would get confused, lost and not be able to get out. And we would be unable to recognize it as the dangerous path we took before. That being the case, we might lose our lives.’ The same holds true for falling into the bad destinies. Due to the powerful expedient means and magical powers of wisdom of Earth Store Bodhisattva, beings can be freed and gain rebirth as humans or gods. If they were then to turn around and enter into the bad destinies again, those with heavy karmic bonds from evil acts might remain in the hells forever with no chance of escape, unable to leave suffering and attain bliss.”

Sutra:

At that time, the Ghost King Evil Poison placed his palms together respectfully, addressed the Buddha, and said, “World Honored One, each of us countless ghost kings of Jambudvipa bestows benefit or inflicts harm upon beings differently. However, karmic retributions cause those in my retinue to travel the world doing to do more evil than good. Nonetheless, when we pass by a household, a city, a town, a garden, a cottage, or a hut where there are men or women who have cultivated as little as a hair’s worth of good deeds, even if they have hung up but one banner or one canopy, used a little incense or a few flowers as offerings to images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, recited the sacred Sutras or burned incense as an offering to even one sentence or gatha in them, we ghost kings will respect such people as we would the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. We will instruct the smaller ghosts, each of whom has great power, as well as the earth spirits, to protect such people. Bad situations, accidents, severe or unexpected illnesses, and all other unwelcome events will not even come near their residences or other places where they may be, much less enter the door.”

Commentary:

At that time, the Ghost King Evil Poison, a most vicious and mean ghost king who specializes in dealing with evil and vicious people arrived before the Buddha, which leaves him no longer evil or vicious. He placed his palms together respectfully, addressed the Buddha, and said, “World Honored One, each of us countless ghost kings of southern Jambudvipa bestows benefit or inflicts harm upon beings differently. There are countless ghost kings in one world; not to mention that there are countless worlds, thus rendering the number of ghost kings countless. Each ghost king governs over different things. Some govern over those who hurt people , while some govern over those who plan to benefit people. How come there are ghost kings who hurt people and ghost kings who help people? Those who hurt people subdue bad people; those who benefit others help good people. However, karmic retributions cause those in my retinue to travel the world do ing more evil than good. Why are ghost kings in the occupation they are in? It is because of their past karma. The retinues of us ghosts who go about different parts of the world are mostly evil , ; more are evil and fewer are good.

Although they are more evil than good, nonetheless, when we pass by a household, a big city, a small town or a tiny village, a garden, a cottage, or a hut where there are men or women who have cultivated as little as a hair’s worth of good deeds, even if they have hung up but one banner or one jeweled canopy, used a little incense or a few flowers as offerings to images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, recited the sacred Sutras such as the Shurangama Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Vajra Sutra and other Mahayana sutras. Or burned incense as an offering to even one sentence in a sutra or a gatha, i.e., a verse, in them.

We ghost kings , every one of us, will respect such people as we would the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. We will instruct the smaller ghosts, though considered “small”, each of whom has great power, as well as the earth spirits, to protect such people. Bad situations are situations that go against our wishes such as a house caught on fire or some accident without reason, accidents that occur unexpectedly such as plane crashes or train derailments, severe or unexpected illnesses that never quite cures and sudden onset of illness that leads to death in possibly less than an hour, and all other unwelcome, unpleasing, or inauspicious events will not even come near their residences or other places where they may be, much less enter the door. How could these bad situations, accidents, severe illnesses, and sudden onsets of death reach a certain individual’s home? The ghosts are there to protect, ensuring that everything is auspicious. Why is everything auspicious for them? By making offerings to the Triple Jewel, cultivating, and doing goods, adverse events to not reach their houses.”

Sutra:

The Buddha praised the ghost king s, “Excellent, excellent, that all of you ghost kings join Lord Yama in protecting good men and women in that way. I shall tell Lord Brahma and Lord Shakra to make sure that you are protected as well.”

When that was said, a ghost king in the assembly named Lord of Life said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, my karmic conditions are such that I have jurisdiction over the life spans of people in Jambudvipa, governing the time of both their births and their deaths. My fundamental vows are based on a great desire to benefit them, but people do not understand my intent and go through birth and death in distress. Why is that?

“When women in Jambudvipa have just given birth to children, be they boys or girls, or when they are just about to give birth, good deeds should be done to increase the benefits of the household, thus causing the local earth spirits to be immeasurably pleased. The spirits will then protect the mother and child so that they experience peace and happiness, and will bring benefit to the entire family. After the birth, all killing and injuring for the purpose of offering fresh meat to the mother should be carefully avoided, as should parties that include drinking alcohol, eating meat, singing, and playing musical instruments. All those things can keep the mother and child from being peaceful and happy.

Commentary:

The Buddha praised the ghost king s Evil Poison, “Excellent, excellent, that all of you ghost kings join Lord Yama in protecting good men and women in that way. I shall tell Great Lord Brahma and Lord Shakra of the Heaven of Thirty-Three to make sure that you are protected as well.”

When that was said by Shakyamuni, another ghost king in the assembly named Lord of Life who controls human lifespans said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, my karmic conditions are such that I have jurisdiction over the life spans of people in Jambudvipa, governing the time of both their births and their deaths. I am in charge of lengths of life. My fundamental vows are based on a great desire to benefit them, but people do not understand my intent and go through birth and death in distress. Why is that?

“When women in southern Jambudvipa have just given birth to children, be they boys or girls, or when they are just about to give birth, good deeds that benefit people should be done to increase the benefits of the household. Doing good deeds brings about an auspicious light, which protects you. Having created good deeds and benefits that help the household; thus, causing the local earth spirits to be immeasurably pleased. The spirits will then protect the mother and child so that they experience peace and happiness, and will bring benefit to the entire family. After the birth, remember not to kill any being! All killing and injuring for the purpose of offering fresh meat, such as chicken, duck, or fish or bring some delicious food to the mother who just gave birth should be carefully avoided, as should parties that include drinking alcohol, eating meat, singing, and playing musical instruments such as violins or flutes. All those things can keep the mother and child from being peaceful and happy.

Sutra:

Why is that? At the difficult time of birth, uncountable evil ghosts, including mountain sprites, goblins, and certain spirits, desire to eat the strong-smelling blood. I quickly order the local earth spirits of that household to protect the mother and child, allowing them to be peaceful and happy and to receive other benefits. When people in such households witness those benefits, they should do meritorious deeds to express their gratitude to the earth spirits. If instead, they harm and kill, and have large gatherings involving feasting and entertainment, then the retributions that result from such offenses will be borne by them and will bring harm to the mother and child as well.

“Moreover, when people of Jambudvipa are on the verge of death, I wish to keep them from falling into the Evil Paths, regardless of whether they have done good or evil. But how much is this power of mine to help them increased when they have personally cultivated good roots! When those who do good in Jambudvipa are about to die, hundreds of thousands of ghosts and spirits from the Evil Paths transform themselves and appear as their parents or other relatives in an attempt to lead such people to fall into the Evil Paths. How much more is that the case for those who have done evil deeds!

Commentary:

Why is that? What are the reasons that make the mother and child ill at ease? At the difficult time of birth, uncountable evil ghosts, including many kinds of mountain sprites, water goblins, and certain spirits, desire to eat the strong-smelling blood that is let out during labor. I, ghost king the Lord of Life, quickly give orders to the local earth spirits of that household. Whenever something like this happens, I command those earth spirits living there and take care of the residence and land there to protect the mother and child, allowing them to be peaceful and happy and to receive other benefits. When people in such households, including adults and children witness those benefits, they should do meritorious deeds to express their gratitude to the earth spirits.

If instead of being grateful, they harm and kill living beings, and have large gatherings involving feasting and entertainment, then the retributions that result from such offenses will be borne by them. They must bear the consequences of the offenses that they committed. And they will bring harm to the mother and child as well. Both children and adults will be hurt.

“Moreover, when people of the southern continent of Jambudvipa are on the verge of death, I wish to keep them from falling into the three Evil Paths, regardless of whether they have done good or evil, or whether they are good or evil. But how much is this power of mine to help them increased when they have personally cultivated good roots! I do not need to expend too much effort to protect them because they have cultivated good roots. When those who do good in the southern continent of Jambudvipa are about to die, hundreds of thousands of ghosts and spirits from the Evil Paths transform themselves and appear as their parents or other relatives in an attempt to lead such people to fall into the Evil Paths. Even people who did good deeds will have evil ghosts that come and entice them at the time of their death. Wishing to make them fall into the Evil Paths, they may change into the way your parents, relatives, or friends look. They will come to receive you too, making you fall into the Evil Paths. How much more is that the case for those who have done evil deeds! Even people who did good deeds have evil ghosts come to fool them into falling into the Evil Paths, not to mention people who did evil deeds—evil ghosts are all the more likely to come and entice them into the Evil Paths.

Sutra:

“World Honored One, when men or women in Jambudvipa are on the verge of death, their consciousnesses and spirits become confused and dark. They are unable to discriminate between good and evil, and their eyes and ears are unable to see or hear. That is why relatives of those deceased people should make generous offerings, recite the sacred Sutras, and recite the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Such good conditions can cause the deceased to leave the Evil Paths, and all the demons, ghosts, and spirits will withdraw and disperse.

“World Honored One, if at the time of death beings of any kind have an opportunity to hear the name of one Buddha or Bodhisattva or to hear a sentence or gatha of a Mahayana Sutra, I observe that such beings can quickly be freed from the pull of their accumulated minor bad deeds that would otherwise send them to the Evil Paths. The exception to that is crimes involving killing that warrant Fivefold Relentless Retribution.”

The Buddha told the Ghost King Lord of Life, “Because of your great compassion, you are able to make such great vows and protect all beings in the midst of life and death. When men or women in the future undergo birth and death, do not retreat from your vow, but liberate them all so that they can experience eternal peace.”

Commentary:

Ghost King Lord of Life called out, “World Honored One, when men or women in Jambudvipa are on the verge of death, their warmth, breath, and eighth consciousness leave their bodies, rendering an end to their life. Their consciousnesses and spirits become confused and dark. When people are newly dead, their spiritual consciousness, which is their body between skandhas, is unclear and does not yet understand that they just left their body and that they are dead. They are unable to discriminate between good and evil, and their eyes and ears are unable to see or hear. Their ability to see, to smell, to be aware, and to know are all gone. That is why relatives of those deceased people should make generous offerings. Create substantial merit for them by having monastics recite or by personally reciting this sutra. This is why in China, monks are invited to recite sutras for one, two, three, and on up to seven weeks in reciting the sutras. After Elder Master Hsu Yun passed away, the Buddhist Lecture Hall created merit by reciting the Mahaprajna Sutra for more than 160 days. This is unprecedented. No patriarch in their passing, from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha until now, has had such a huge Dharma Assembly where the Mahaprajna Sutra is recited. This is a great offering.

Recite the sacred Sutras such as this, and recite the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Such good conditions for creating merit and doing good deeds can help the deceased and cause the deceased to leave the Evil Paths, and all the demons, ghosts, and spirits will withdraw and disperse. By creating merit for them so that as their virtues become great, resentment against them and disasters on them vanish. With merit and virtue, offenses and problems decrease, hence all the demons and evil spirits withdraw and disperse, running away.

“World Honored One, if at the time of death beings of any kind in the southern continent of Jambudvipa have an opportunity to hear the name of one Buddha or Bodhisattva alone, no need for many, or to hear a sentence or gatha of a Mahayana Sutra, I, the Ghost King Lord of Life, observe that such beings can eliminate the five offenses of killing and harming that warrant being in the Relentless hells and minor bad deeds that warrant being in the evil destinies. They will quickly be freed quickly. from the pull of their accumulated minor bad deeds that would otherwise send them to the Evil Paths. The exception to that is crimes involving killing that warrant Fivefold Relentless Retribution. As long as people of this sort hear or encounter the name of one Buddha or Bodhisattva, or a line or a verse in a Mahayana sutra before or at the time of their death, they can get rid of the five offenses that would warrant them being in the Relentless Hells. They may also get rid of offenses from having killed or harmed others. There was not supposed to be any way to eliminate the offenses of the Five Rebellious Acts, killing and harming. Originally they deserved to fall into the evil destinies from minor offenses, but I will make them become liberated soon so that they do not need to undergo offenses.

The Buddha told the Ghost King Lord of Life, “Because of your great compassion, you are able to make such great vows and protect all beings in the midst of life and death. When men or women in the future undergo birth and death, do not retreat from your vow, but liberate them all so that they can experience eternal peace.”

Sutra:

The Ghost King told the Buddha, “Please do not be concerned. Until the end of my life, in every thought I shall protect beings of Jambudvipa, at the time both of birth and of death, so that they all find tranquility. I only wish that at the time of birth and death they would believe what I say, so that they could all be liberated and gain many benefits.”

At that time the Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “This great Ghost King Lord of Life has already passed through hundreds of thousands of lives as a great ghost king, protecting beings during both birth and death. Only because of this great being’s compassionate vows does he appear thus in the body of a great ghost king, for in reality he is not a ghost. After one hundred seventy eons have passed, he will become a Buddha named No Appearance Thus Come One. His eon will be called Happiness, and his world will be named Pure Dwelling. That Buddha’s lifespan will continue for incalculable eons. Earth Store, the circumstances surrounding this great Ghost King are thus. They are inconceivable, and the people and gods whom he rescues are countless.”

Commentary:

The Ghost King is very much at ease. It is not bad being a ghost king. He can make anyone he wants live; he can make anyone he wants die. Everyone’s lives are in the hands of this ghost king. If he were greedy, such as an official who accepts bribes, he would certainly receive many because he controls everyone’s length of life. One ghost during the time of Dharma Master Daosheng went to listen to the Dharma Master lecture on the sutras frequently. When Dharma Master Daosheng told the ghost to become reborn as a human beings, he said, “I have been a ghost for 3,000 years, I have no troubles and worries. Lord Sheng tells me to become a human being, I am afraid that I will not reach the end of that life.” The ghost says that he is afraid that before he finishes being a human, he will create offenses, so he might as well be a ghost. See, ghosts think it is not bad being a ghost. There is a Chinese aphorism that says, “Offer the position of an emperor to a beggar who has done so for three years and the beggar will refuse.” The ghost experiences so much freedom. A ghost who has been a ghost for 3,000 years will refuse to be human because he feels that ghosts have no troubles or worries. Lord Sheng, as the ghost calls Dharma Master Daosheng, is an honorific that you (those of you who are going to Taiwan to receive the precepts may use) can use when you encounter senior masters. For instance, you may call Dharma Master Yingshun, Lord Ying. Actually you could use either one of the characters in his name, whichever one rolls off the tongue. There are no rules for using a particular one. For example, you may refer to Dharma Master Daoyuan as Lord Dao or Lord Yuan. However, now that you are going to receive the precepts, he is your Precept Master, so you cannot refer to him as Lord Dao or Lord Yuan. What should you call him? Call him Precept Master. You would be disrespectful if you were to call your Precept Master Lord Yuan or Lord Dao. It is most respectful to call him Precept Master. He is your Precept Master because you received the precepts with him. As for other senior masters? Refer to them using one character in their name and not two.

Also, when you see most monastics, you should put your palms together when you speak. Do not stare at people the way you do. Lower your eyes when you talk to anybody. This is the way to pull in your body and mind. Now that you are going to receive the precepts there, I am going to pass on Buddhist vinaya to you westerns, so pay special attention. If you uphold them well and are good representatives for Westerns, they will say, “Ah, Westerns also observe the rules so well!” If you do not observe the rules when you go over there, “Ah, that does not work. They cannot cultivate.” You lose face for all westerners. Even if there are people willing to leave home in the future, no one will be willing to accept them: “They cannot cultivate! We cannot accept them!” As Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, wherever you go, you must be good role models who keep the rules. Do not go against the rules.

Now that the five of you are leaving for Taiwan, it would be best if you ask for recordings. Since some of you understand Chinese and some of you do not, you may bring a tape recorder and a video recorder so that you may record anything important. You may record any Dharma Master during the precept training. With the five of you together, the ones who understand Chinese will translate for those who do not, every time. When other people are resting, you do not rest. Help yourself by telling those among you who do not understand Chinese what happened during the day. You will be united this way. Do not finish your studies there and end up not knowing anything still. This can be said to be the first time that so many westerners go to receive the precepts; it is unprecedented. Study all the rules and etiquette there as you receive the precepts so that you may return and pass them on to Americans. After you receive the precepts this year, perhaps next year or the year after, we can also transmit the precepts at our place in Minnesota so that America can also have a precept training period with ten monks. It will be even better if we have more than three masters and seven certifiers. You are the essential people for blazing the Buddhist trail in America, so this is a very important trip.

Ghost King Lord of Life told the Buddha, “Please do not be concerned or worried, World Honored One. Until the end of my life as a ghost, in every thought I shall protect beings of Jambudvipa, at the time both of birth and of death, so that they all find tranquility. They will live well and die well, never experiencing anything that goes against their wishes. I only wish that at the time of birth and death they would believe what I say. One vow of mine is for all beings to obey me at the time of birth and death, the way you obey me as my disciples. If you do not listen to your master, then you are not good disciples. So that they could all be liberated and gain many benefits. If they do not listen to the ghost king, then they would not be good beings; the ghost king would not protect them.”

At that time the Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “This great Ghost King Lord of Life has already passed through hundreds of thousands of lives as a great ghost king, protecting beings during both birth and death. Only because of this great being’s compassionate vows does he appear thus in the body of a great ghost king, for in reality he is not a ghost. He is a real great Bodhisattva. Although he is a ghost king, he is great Bodhisattva who vowed to become a ghost king based on his vows of compassion. He appears in the form of a great ghost king, but he is not actually a ghost. After one hundred seventy eons have passed, he will become a Buddha named No Appearance Thus Come One. No appearance is the true appearance; true appearance is without any appearance. His eon will be called Happiness, and his world will be named Pure Dwelling. We are here in the Saha World during the Worthy Eon, while his eon is the Eon of Happiness and world named Pure Dwelling. That Buddha’s lifespan will continue for incalculable eons. His life is extremely long. Earth Store, you should know that the past and present circumstances surrounding this great Ghost King are thus. They are inconceivable, unimaginable, and unspeakable, and the people and gods whom he rescues are countless.”

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