Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha - Great Vow to Help all beings
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is one of the four principal boddhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha took a great vow to guide all living beings from the hell and denied to achieve Buddhahood until all hells are emptied.
Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha is one of the popular bodhisattvas and is extremely respected and worshipped by Chinese and Japanese Buddhists. Bodhisattva is also known as Ti Tsang P’usa and is depicted as the Buddhist monk. The term “Ksitigarbha” refers to meaning “Earth Treasury”, “Earth Store”, “Earth Matrix”, or “Earth Womb”. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha was foremost as Great Vow to help and to deliver all beings. Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha was depicted as Buddhist monk with a shaved head wearing simple robes wielding a staff.
“If I do not go to the hell to help the suffering beings there, who else will go? ... if the hells are not empty I will not become a Buddha. Only when all living beings have been saved, will I attain Bodhi.”
– Ksitigarbha Greatest Compassionate Vow
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva was mostly known for his vow to take the responsibility to guide all living beings existed in the six realms between the departure of Lord Buddha and the rise of future Buddha, Maitreya. According to the history of Mahayana Buddhist Tradition, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha took vow, not to achieve Buddhahood until all beings are free from hell and all hells are emptied.
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is one of the four principal bodhisattva great respected and worshipped in Mahayana Buddhism . The other three bodhisattvas are Samantabhadra, Avalokitesvara, and Manjushri. The full name of Ksitigarbha is Dayuan Dizang Pusa or “ Bodhisattva King Earth-Matrix of the Great Vow ”.
Ksitigarbha is often depicted as a Buddhist monk who took a vow, not to achieve Buddhahood and guide all living beings until all hells are emptied. But in China Ksitigarbha is also depicted as a Brahmin maiden.
Ksitigarbha as a Brahmin Maiden
The story of Ksitigarbha was mentioned in the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Purvapanidhana sutra, one of the most popular Mahayana Sutras. According toKsitigarbha Sutra, Ksitigarbha used to be the maiden of a Brahmin. She was very troubled because of her mother’s death. Since she had false statement on the three jewels , she got worried that her mother would experience great tortures in hell. So she sold everything of her property so that she could offer offering to Buddha of her time. The Buddha at that time was known as Buddha of the Flower of Meditation and Enlightenment. She asked for Buddha help to spare her mother from all the pain in the hell. Later after seeing Ksitigarbha praying fervently, Buddha told her to go home and recite his name if she wanted to see where her mother was. After doing the exact thing that Buddha instructed her, her consciousness went to Hell realm and she was informed by the guardian that her mother went to heaven after her fervent praying and offerings. After knowing that her mother went to heaven, she was relieved but she was also sad seeing the suffering in the hell, she took a vow to help beings to relieve them from the suffering of the hell.
Ksitigarbha as a Buddhist Monk
According to Mahayana Buddhist tradition, there existed a legend on how Ksitigarbha manifested himself in China and how Mount Jiuhua became Ksitigarbha's Bodhimanda, one of the four sacred mountains in China. According to records, Ksitigarbha was a former prince of Silla and was known as Kim Gyo-gak and he went to Mount Jiuhua to cultivate his dharma .
Some rumors said that Ksitigarbha was bitten by a snake on Mount Jiuhua. Unable to move, he resides in Mount Jiuhua. He was cured by the medicine gave by a woman, a passer-by. Then he started meditating in a small hut in Mount Jiuhua. When a scholar with his friend and his family was visiting the mountain, they happened to notice Ksitigarbha meditating. But looking at Ksitigarbha bad condition, they decided to build a temple as an offering to him. When they asked him how much he needed, he replied that he needed a piece of land that could be covered with his robe. The scholar and his friend were surprised when he threw his robe and it spread the whole mountain. Elder Wen-Ke, the owner of Mount Jiuhua provided the entire mountain to Ksitigarbha and named the mountain to Ksitigarbha. Jijang died at the age of 99 in Mount Jiuhua.