The 7 advantages of reciting Earth Store Sutra
A simple explanation given by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
- Sutra -
“Moreover, Empty Space Treasury Bodhisattva, if gods, dragons, or spirits of the present or future hear Earth Store’s name, bow to Earth Store’s image, or hear of Earth Store’s past vows and the events of his practices, and then praise, behold, and bow to him, they will benefit in seven ways:
“Moreover, let me tell you again, Empty Space Treasury Bodhisattva, if gods, dragons, or spirits of the present or future hear Earth Store’s name, bow to Earth Store’s image, or hear of Earth Store’s past vows and the events of his practices, such as all the stories of cause and effect in the Fundamental Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra and then praise, behold, and bow to him, they will benefit in seven special ways. What are the advantages of bowing to any of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? There is incomparable benefit to bowing to the Buddhas. Bow before the Buddhas to eliminate offenses as numerous as grains of sand in the Ganges River.
- Sutra -
First, they will quickly ascend to levels of sagehood.
Second, their evil karma will dissolve.
Third, all Buddhas will protect and be near them.
Fourth, they will not retreat from Bodhi.
Fifth, their inherent powers will increase.
Sixth, they will know past lives.
Seventh, they will ultimately realize Buddhahood.
What are these seven advantages?
First, they will quickly ascend to levels of sagehood. What does ascend mean? For instance, going from the first ground to the third ground, skipping the second ground. Or going from the third ground to the fifth ground, then from the fifth ground to the eighth ground. They ascend quickly by passing over certain stages.
Second, their evil karma will dissolve. Why do people not become Buddhas? They have impure karma. Evil karma is tainted. The karma you create is impure. Evil karma is dark karma. You do not want people to know about anything you do. Recite Earth Store Bodhisattva and your evil karma is eliminated.
Third, all Buddhas will protect and be near them. All Buddhas throughout the ten directions come before you to protect you.
Fourth, they will not retreat from Bodhi. You will never withdraw from your resolve for Bodhi, for enlightenment. You grow by the day and make progress each day, only advancing and never retreating. Once Bodhi resolve burgeons, I want to receive the Five Precepts today and leave home tomorrow. The day after. I must become an eminent monk. The day after that: I must become a patriarch. The day after that I will practice the ways of a Bodhisattva. A while later I will become a Buddha. You must not rescind your resolve for Bodhi. Avoid making the resolve for receiving the Five Precepts then reject the idea, thinking, “It would be embarrassing to receive the precepts then violate them. I could not stand it if most people know I violated the precepts.” Or they hear that monastic life is bitter, so they reconsider and decide not to become a monastic. Very few can remain steadfast toward the goal of Bodhi.
Fifth, their inherent powers will increase. Inherent power refers to the strength of our inherent Buddha nature. Living beings have the opportunity and power to become Buddhas. What people do is to cover over their inherent Buddha nature and allow afflictions and ignorance to develop. Now that you shattered ignorance and broke with afflictions, then your inherent power manifests and increases.
Sixth, they will know past lives. They know what they did in their last life and what they did the life before that. They know about their lives as far back as 80,000 great eons. Those who certify to arhatship know their past lives, but they do not know anything beyond 80,000 great eons. Once someone has the ability to know past lives, they know, for example I was an ant in one life! That was a tiny body. Now I am huge as a human being. Perhaps we go from ants to bees, bees to butterflies, butterflies to birds, birds to eagles. We were vegetarian eagles, so we built blessings and planted causes for Buddhahood. Hence we became humans, who will become Buddhas in the future. With the ability to know past lives, you know when you were an ant, what kind of insect or animal you were. This body of ours will change, perhaps what follows are numerous transformations.
Seventh, they will ultimately realize Buddhahood. They will become Buddhas eventually.
- Sutra -
At that time, all the indescribably ineffable numbers of Buddhas, Thus Come Ones who had come from the Ten Directions, and great Bodhisattvas, gods, dragons, and the rest of the Eightfold Division, having heard Shakyamuni Buddha’s praise of Earth Store Bodhisattva’s great awesome spiritual powers, lauded this unprecedented event.
At that time, all the indescribably ineffable numbers of Buddhas, Thus Come Ones who had come from the Ten Directions, and the unimaginable and unspeakable number of great Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions, Pratyekabuddhas, gods, people, ghosts, spirits, dragons, and the rest of the Eightfold Division, having heard Shakya-muni Buddha’s praise of Earth Store Bodhisattva’s great awesome spiritual powers and incredible blessings, incomparable by any other Bodhisattvas, lauded this unprecedented event. Everyone extolled at how there has never been such a supreme and rare Bodhisattva.
- Sutra -
Following that, incense, flowers, heavenly garments, and pearl necklaces rained down in the Trayastrimsha Heaven as offerings to Shakyamuni Buddha and Earth Store Bodhisattva, and everyone in the assembly joined together in gazing at and making obeisance to the Buddha and Bodhisattva. Then they put their palms together and withdrew.
Following that, an array of incense, scented flowers such as mandaravas (little white flowers) and mahamandaravas (large white flowers), heavenly garments lighter than nylon, and pearl necklaces rained down in the Trayastrimsha Heaven (the Heaven of Thirty-Three) as offerings to Shakyamuni Buddha and Earth Store Bodhisattva. The most valuable and rare gems were offered to Shakyamuni Buddha who was the greatest, and then to Earth Store Bodhisattva. After the offerings, everyone in the assembly who had gathered, such as Bodhisattvas, arhats, gods, ghosts and spirits joined together in gazing at and making obeisance to the Buddha and Bodhisattva. Then they put their palms together and respectfully withdrew to the side.
- Praise -
Earth Store’s basic vows and comparative causes of virtue are told.
We learn that crippling illness, physical defects, come from past lives’ deeds.
In this life, those who recite Great Vehicle Sutras,
Bring benefits without end, aiding all to be reborn from Jeweled lotuses.
Homage to Earth Store Bodhisattva, Mahasattva.
The verse of praise marks the end of the Earth Store Sutra’s third and last volumes of the thirteen chapters. The sutra of Earth Store’s vows compares the causes of its virtues. We learn that illnesses, physical defects and disabilities are results of deeds from past lives. These refer to people with bodily defects, whether missing a hand, a foot, a nose, an eye or an ear. Basically, the six sensory organs are incomplete.
Or there are those who are disabled and mute. How come? This type of people have created karmic offenses in past lives, so they face retributions now. In this life, those who recite Mahayana Sutras like the Earth Store Sutra will bring benefits without end that will take forever to explicate. If one always recites the Earth Store Sutra or the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva, he will be reborn from Jeweled lotuses. The praise ends with an homage to the Eternal Abiding Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha of the Ten Directions.
I have finished explaining the Earth Store Sutra today, but there is no end to sutra recitation. We must recite this sutra every day to gain the twenty-eight benefits and the seven advantages. So being in the Dharma-ending age, we should often recite the Earth Store Sutra for our own good. With the power of his vows, Earth Store Bodhisattva will protect you who recite this sutra so you will gain the twenty-eight benefits. After listening, you should put in effort to cultivate the Dharma and not miss this opportunity. When you don’t practice a Dharma, it is as if you had never learned it. Hence, it is very crucial to practice the Dharma that you learned.
Although the sutra lecture has ended, cultivation cannot end unless you have become a Buddha. It is said that “Duties fulfilled, pure conduct achieved, never again shall one undergo existence.”
The things that I should do, I have finished. I have succeeded in my pure conduct, and I will no longer have births and deaths. That is the meaning of the phrase. So, all of us can listen to the principles of Earth Store Sutra. These are things that only people with great roots of goodness can hear. Those without the roots don’t have a chance, are not allowed to come or are not willing to listen.
Why would one not willing to listen? It is because the person’s karmic obstacles are too strong. “I don’t want to become a Buddha. I rather go see Earth Store Bodhisattva in the heals. I will wait for him to rescue me, since he has this compassionate power from his vows. He has the key to the hells, so when I fall into the hells, he will use his key to release me. I will then be able to escape and resume being a bandit.” You can see there are people ready to escape from the hells to become a bandit. However, Earth Store Bodhisattva has knowledge of others’ thoughts. He would think, “Okay, you’re planning to be a bandit after leaving hell. Then I’m not opening the door for you.” That’s why we shouldn’t learn from this kind of people.
The Earth Store Sutra lectures end today, and we will cultivate in accord with Earth Store Bodhisattva’s vows, without retreat. We need to know no bounds and to strive forward.