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Sutra of The Great Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva

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The Sūtra of The Great Vows of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva (Chinese: 地藏菩薩本願經, Dizang P'usa Benyuan Jing) is one of the more popular Buddhist sutras in Chinese Mahāyāna Buddhism. The sutra tells basically 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. There are a total of thirteen chapters, which are divided into three sections.

It was first translated from the Sanskrit into Chinese in the 7th century A.D. Tang Dynasty by the Tripiṭaka master Śikṣānanda, a Buddhist monk from Khotan who also provided a newer translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra.

Presented in the form of a seemingly mythic dialogue between the Buddha and Kṣitigarbha, the teaching takes place in a certain heaven called Trāyastriṃśa Heaven, located on the top of the Sumeru mountain, in front of a vast multitude of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, gods 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, 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.

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