Introduction and Forward to The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva with commentary by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

Sutra of the Past


Vows of





This is one of the books in a series published

Under the sponsorship of

The Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions

New York,U.S.A.

With the aim of making religious texts translated from

Various languages accessible in English

Sutra of the Past Vows of

Earth Store


The Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

Translated by American Bhiksu Heng Ching

Revised by American Bhiksuni Heng Ch’ih

Polished by American Bhiksu Heng Kuan

Certified byGoldMountainSramana

Dhyana Master Hsuan Hua


The Institute for Advanced Studies of

World Religions

Publishers,New York,N.Y.

The translator dedicates this translation

to his grandmother, Rose Klarer,

and to his parents, David and Ruth Number:  0-915078-00-7

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number:  74-18135

© 1974 by the Sino-American Buddhist Association,

San Francisco

All rights reserved

Printed and bound in theUnited States of America

Namo Earth Store Bodhisattva

Namo Ti Tsang Wang P’u Sa

Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva

The sutra often instructs practitioners to recite the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva, as well as the names of various Buddhas.  This is traditionally done by prefacing the name with the Sanskrit          word Namo, which means praise or homage to, take refuge in, revere, etc.  Thus the Bodhisattva’s name would be recited in English, Chinese, and Sanskrit as above.


THIS TRANSLATION OF THE Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, with the explanatory lectures of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua, has been prepared by the Buddhist Text Translation Society of the Sino-American Buddhist Association, with headquarters at Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery,1731 15th Street,San Francisco,California94103U.S.A.

Since everyone who hears or reads a lecture has his or her own understanding, the views of a great many people have been consulted in the preparation of the translation.  Although space precludes the mention of every individual, the following members of the Buddhist Text Translation society must be singled out:  Dharma Masters Heng Ch’ien and Heng Shou, who, although, they did not work on this text specifically, have given a great deal of advice and criticism on many aspects of translation over the years, Upasaka I Kuo Jung has also been of great help in this regard.  The task of refining the English of the initial translation has been performed by Dharma Master Heng Kuan, editor-in-chief of Vajra Bodhi Sea and chairman of the Polishing Committee of the Buddhist Text Translation Society.

In addition to an enormous amount of editorial work, a great deal of preliminary rewriting and sifting had to be done.  Much of this work was done by Dharma Master Heng Ch’ih of the Revision Committee of the Buddhist Text Translation Society, who not only helped in rewriting but undertook a great deal of laborious research into Sanskrit forms and niceties of presentation.  She is also responsible for putting the entire manuscript into finished typed form, a job of no small matter in itself.

Many people took part in the earlier stages of preparation of this work.  Special thanks are due to the following members of the Buddhist Text Translation Society:  Dharma Masters Heng Shou and Heng Chu, who did a great deal of the proof-reading and made many useful suggestions:  Upasakas Kuo T’ang Yager, Ph.D. candidate; Kuo Hui Weber; Kuo Kuei Bach; Upasika Kuo Chin Vickers, who provided valuable help in preparing copies of the manuscript; and especially Upasika Kuo Tsung Bach, who handled the complex and difficult task of turning the first rough typed manuscript into presentable form.

Special thanks are due to the Venerable Dhyana Master Hsuan Hua, chairman of the Certification Board of the Buddhist Text Translation Society, for having delivered the lectures in the first place and for his constant and patient aid during the preparation of this work.

Special mention must also be made of the Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions, which has undertaken to have this sutra published, and of Nora A. Larke and Institute copy editors Upasika Yeshe Tsomo and Leah Zahler, who devoted much talent and effort to the preparation of the work.  The skilled guidance provided by Nai Yung Chang of Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in the production of this book is likewise greatly appreciated.

Buddhist Text Translation Society



FROM ANCIENT TIMES, the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva has been one of the most popular Chinese Buddhist sutras.  “Earth Store” is a literal rendering of the bodhisattva’s original Sanskrit name, Ksitigarbha.  In the Buddhist pantheon, he is one of the most highly celebrated bodhisattva, along with Manjusri, Avalokitesvara, and Samantabhadra.  These four represent the four basic Mahayana qualities:  Manjusri represents great wisdom; Avalokitesvara, great compassion; Samantabhadra, great meritorious deeds; and Ksitigarbha, the great vow – the vow to help and to cross over all sentient beings.  “If I do not go to hell (to help them there), who else will go?” is the famous pronouncement of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.

In the seventh century A.D., this sutra was translated by Siksananda from the Sanskrit into Chinese, but not until this publication has it ever been translated into English.  Dharma Master Heng Ching’s work is not a critical study in the traditional Western scholarly sense.  However, it bears special importance, as it is accompanied by the comprehensive commentary of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua.  Without such an accompaniment, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for Western readers to understand the significance and applications of this sutra.

One of the aims of the Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions is to make available religious teachings that were previously inaccessible to the English-speaking student of religion.  In this light, the Institute is honored to publish this invaluable source of learning and awareness.

The Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions

APRIL 1974


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The Buddha told Empty Space Store Bodhisattva, “Listen attentively, listen attentively, I shall enumerate and describe them to you. If there are good men and women in the future who see Earth Store’s image, or who hear this sutra or read or recite it; who use incense, flowers, food and drink, clothing, or gems as offerings; or if they praise, behold, and worship him, they shall attain twenty-eight kinds of advantages:

They will be remembered and protected by gods and dragons.
Their good roots will increase daily.
They will accumulate superior causes of wisdom.
They will not retreat from Bodhi.
Their food and drink will be abundant.
Epidemics will not touch them.
They will not encounter disasters of fire and water.
They will not be trouble by thieves.
They will be respected by all who see them.
They will be aided by ghosts and spirits.
Women will be reborn as men.
If born as women they will be daughters of kings and ministers.
They will have upright and proper appearances.
They will often be born in the heavens.
They may be emperors or kings.
They will know their past lives.
They will attain whatever they seek.
Their families will be happy.
All disasters will be eradicated.
They will eternally be apart from the paths of karma.
They will always arrive at their destination.
At night their dreams will be peaceful and happy.
Their deceased relatives will leave suffering behind.
They will receive the blessings from their past lives.
They will be praised by the sages.
They will be intelligent and their roots will be keen.
They will have magnanimous, kind, and sympathetic hearts.
They will ultimately attain Buddhahood.

"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." -Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha

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