Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrvapraṇidhāna Sūtra
The Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrvapraṇidhāna Sūtra (Sanskrit; Chinese: 地藏菩薩本願經; pinyin: Dìzàng Púsà Běnyuàn Jīng), or The Sutra of the Fundamental Vows of the Earth-store Bodhisattva is a Mahāyāna sūtra teaching about the bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha, and is one of the more popular sūtras in Chinese Buddhism. The sutra tells of how Kṣitigarbha became a bodhisattva by making great vows to rescue other sentient beings, and a description of how he followed filial piety in his past lifetimes. The sutra also expounds at length the retributions of unwholesome karma, descriptions of Buddhist hells, and the benefits of good merit both great and small.
The Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrvapraṇidhāna Sūtra was first translated from the Sanskrit into Chinese in the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty by the Tripiṭaka master Śikṣānanda, a Buddhist monk from Khotan who also provided a new translation of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra and the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. However, some scholars have suspected that instead of being translated, this text may have originated in China, since no Sanskrit manuscripts of this text have been found. Part of the reason for suspicion is that the text advocates filial piety, which was stereotypically associated with Chinese culture. Since then, other scholars such as Gregory Schopen have pointed out that Indian Buddhism also had traditions of filial piety. Currently there is no clear evidence indicating either an Indian or Chinese origin for the text.
There are a total of thirteen chapters in the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrvapraṇidhāna Sūtra, which are divided into three sections. The teaching is presented in the form of a dialogue between the Buddha and Kṣitigarbha, and takes place in Trāyastriṃśa Heaven, located on the top of the Sumeru mountain, in front of a vast multitude of buddhas, bodhisattvas, devas and ghosts. Immediately prior to his departure from this world, the Buddha manifested in the Trāyastriṃśa heavens so that he might repay the kindness of his mother, Queen Māyā, who dwelt there, by speaking the Dharma on her behalf.
After the death of Sakyamuni Buddha, there would be no Buddha on Earth until the appearance of the Bodhisattva Maitreya over a few billion years later, who is to become the next Buddha. During this transition period, in the era between the death of Sakyamuni Buddha and the rise of Maitreya Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha assigned and delegated to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to act on his behalf, in order to save the sentient beings.
This sutra is fundamentally a teaching concerning karmic retribution, graphically describing the consequences one creates for oneself by committing undesirable actions. This sutra also deals with filial piety – not only that between oneself and one's parents, but also in an ultimate sense of a universal code of duty or responsibility for all living beings. In Chapter Ten, for example, the Buddha frequently mentions the benefits of dedicating any good merit done to all sentient beings:
Moreover, if they should be able to dedicate rewards thus gained for the benefit of the entire Dharmadhatu, then their bliss will defy comparison.
- Schopen, Gregory. Filial Piety and the Monk in the Practice of Buddhism: A Question of 'Sinicization' Viewed from the Other Side.
- Shih, Tao-tsi. The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's Fundamental Vows (2nd ed.). Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada. p. 68.
- "The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva". Buddhist Text Translation Society.
- "The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, with commentary from Venerable Hsuan Hua". Buddhist Text Translation Society.
- "The Sutra of The Great Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva". Upasaka Tao-tsi Shih.