Sunday, 31 August 2008

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva (Ti Tsang P'usa)

Today is the last day of the 7th Lunar Month or popularly known amongst the Chinese society as the "Ghost Month". But many do not know that Ti Tsang P'usa's birthday also falls on the last day of this month. The Sanskrit name of Ti Tsang P'usa is Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Bodhisattva or famously known as "P'usa" in Mandarin is a name common to all Bodhisattvas. Among the countless Bodhisattvas in the universe, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and 3 others have firmly captured the hearts of the Mahayanists. These 4 main P'usas are depicted in the Chinese Buddhist Pantheon and they represent 4 basic great qualities:

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Kuan Shih Yin) - as Great Compassion
Manjusri Bodhisattva (Wen Shu) - as Great Wisdom
Samantavhadra Bodhisattva (Pu Hsien) - as Great Love and Perfect Activity
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva (Ti Tsang) - as Great Vow to help and deliver all living beings

A Bodhisattva must have 3 principle characteristics. Firstly, to have enough wisdom to understand the real facts of the universe. Secondly, to have enough wisdom to enlighten others and thirdly, to have enough wisdom to endeavor to attain perfect
Buddhahood as well as to work perseveringly to relieve the world out of its sufferings. People who have persevering energy to purify themselves as well as to lead the world to Salvation through the Noble Teachings of Lord Buddha are entitled to be called Bodhisattvas.

Tsang, meaning the "Earth-Store" is a direct translation of Ksitigarbha's name from Sanskrit. First the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is compared to earth. Earth is the only place where all living beings as well as plants are born or planted. Consequently, the earth is most useful to the world.

Tsang P'usa, or the Great Vow Bodhisattva has Infinite Loving Kindness and determination. His famous vow which is weightiest is: "If I do not got to the hell to help the suffering souls there, who else will go?... If the hells are not empty of sinners, I vow not to become a Buddha."

As such, he has remained in this world through different transformation and in different lives, especially in the Hell striving to relieve all sinners out of sufferings and to lead them to real liberation. This
Ksitigarbha Bodhisatva is reliable to all living beings as if the earth is reliable both to the living and non-living beings. This Bodhisatva has immeasurable principles for advising people to purify themselves, both mentally and physically , as well as showing them the way of attaining Buddhahood. Therefore, this Bodhisattva is very helpful to people as if he is a safe composing of various treasures. As this Bodhisattva always remains in the Hell to convert sinners to lead a righteous llife, he is called the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. In order to promote filial love towards parents, he made various strong vows in his past lives. The stories of his past lives and his various great vows was described in the Sutra of The Past Vows Of The Earth Store Bodhisattva. This is one of the most popular Buddhist Sutras, with the tales of the great filial piety which the Bodhisattva practised that led to his illimitable vows to save all living beings. This Sutra was spoken by Sakyamuni Buddha at the end of HIS life to the beings of the Trayastrimsa Heaven as a mark of gratitude and remembrance for his beloved mother.

In this
Sutra, the Buddha revealed Ksitigarbha's previous past lives when he manifested to the people of this world the virtues of a filial life through various transformation in the distant past aeons when:-

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva was the son of a rich man

During that time there was a Buddha with extraordinary magnificent features. The boy admired him very much and he asked the Buddha how he managed to obtain such a rare appearance. He was told that such features were the result of his endeavoring efforts in relieving the sufferings of others to lead happy lives by means of the Ethical Teachings. Upon hearing this, the son of the rich man made a strong vow that he would sacrifice himself to relieve all the sufferings of people and to fully enlighten them before he himself would attain

2) When he was the daughter of a Brahman

At that time, there was a Buddha by the name of "Flower of Meditation and Enlightenment", whose mind is completely free from all delusion. During the same period, there was a girl who was the daughter of a Brahman. This lady possessed splendid graciousness that eventually she was admired and respected by everyone who came across her. Even deities were willing to be her guardians. But her evil-minded mother had a false belief in wrong conceptions. She always spoke of evil about others as well as to ridicule the Triple Jewels. Triple Jewels herewith refers to The Buddha,
Dharma and Sangha which are shelter and guiding ideal of all Buddhist. Although the mother has been persuaded by her daughter to reform herself, she was very stubborn and stuck to her misconceptions. When she died, she was cast to the Hell of Relentless Suffering in which punishments continues without ceasing. Her daughter knew quite well that her mother, who did not believe in the theory of Cause and Effect, would certainly be one of the sub-humans in Hell as a result of all the sins that she had committed. In order to save her mother from the great torture of Hell, she did a lot of charitable benevolences including offering to the poor and needy. She prepared some offerings and pay respect to the above Buddha of her time. She made fervent prayers that her mother be spared of all pains of Hell and requested the Buddha for help. In order to show deep gratitude to the above Buddha, she made a strong vow that she would never become a Buddha until she could successfully reform the sinful minds of all sinners through the Ethical Teaching of the Exalted Buddha.

3) When he was a king of a small kingdom

Before the Buddha of Perfect Wisdom renounced the world, he was a king of a small country. He was a great friend of the king of his neighbourhood. Both of them practised the ten principles of righteousness. Unfortunately, the citizens of his neighbouring country always committed evil deeds. The first king made a strong vow that he would try his best to be enlightened as soon as he could so that he would be able to enlighten his citizens and lead them to Salvation. The second king made a vow that he would never become a Buddha unless he would successfully cultivate the moral progress of those sinful citizens till they could attain enlightenment This second king who vowed to bring all erring beings to Enlightenment or else he would not become a Buddha is
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.

4) When he was a girl by the name of "Bright-Eyes"

During this life, there was an
Arhat who tried to spread the Noble Teaching of Lord Buddha. There was a girl by the name of "Bright-eyes" who made offerings to the Arhat and was asked what her wish was. Bright-eyes replied, "I did some good work on the day of my mother's death in order to relieve her out of her sufferings. I longed to know in what state my mother is now present." She told the Arhat that when her mother was alive she had committed the sin of killing lives, especially to eat roasted fried eggs of fish or tortoise and therefore had killed countless lives for food. "Compassionate One, kindly let me know how to relieve my mother," she begged the Arhat. The Arhat, out of great compassion, meditated and came to know that her mother had been casted into the Hell. The girl was advised by the Arhat to pay full respect and chant the name of the the Buddha of that time-"Buddha of the Pure Lotus Eyes" and to have an image of the Buddha to be enshrined in her home.

The girl, in her great anxiety to relieve her mother, sold her precious belongings and with money she purchased an image of the Exalted Buddha. She worshiped it with full respect. One night, she saw the Buddha and was informed that her mother would be reborn as a son by one of her servants. On accounts of all the evils that her mother had committed, that new born son would live up to the age of only 13 and would be casted into the Hell once more for further punishment. Upon hearing this, the girl was in deep sorrow as it seemed like all that she has done for her mother were still insufficient to save her from the suffering of the Hell. Upon hearing this, the girl wept bitterly again and made a strong vow in front of the image of the Buddha of Pure Lotus Eyes - that if her mother be relieved forever out of all her sufferings of the Hell, she would endeavor to relieve all sufferings sinners from the Hell before she would become a Buddha herself.

After making such a firm declaration, the Buddha of the Pure Lotus Eyes then told the girl, "You are such a filial daughter to make such a strong vow for the benefit of your mother. May your mother be born as a
Brahmacarin after she passed away from this life and hence to live for hundred years and she will finally achieved Buddhahood to save many livings beings.

The young maiden has since then became an accomplished Bodhisattva through her great acts of
merits and is now known as the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva/Ti Tsang P'usa.

Many people tend to relate Ti Tsang P'usa as the Mogallana who was disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha, because he too had a similar experience of descending to the Hell Realm to seek and save his mother. The stories may sound similar but they happened at different times and adopted quit different methods to save their mother. Mogallana was the one who urged people to make offerings to Buddha and Sangha on the fifteenth of the seventh lunar month to repay the kindness of their parents. This is the origin of the Ullambana Festival which was customary to all Chinese who has mistaken that as the "Ghost Festival". In fact, the seventh month is not a Ghost Month but a month of Filial Piety. Everyone are encouraged to make prayers and chanting to their present parents and parents of the past lives.


Post a Comment