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Main Page
  Jizō Scriptures You are here.
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Jizo statue at Ryutakuji Temple, Shizuoka Prefecture


Sanskrit = Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
Chinese = Ti-tsang (Dizang)
Japanese = Jizō Bosatsu

Below names given with their Japanese readings.


Overview. Jizō is one of the most beloved deities in the Chinese and Japanese pantheon of Buddhist saviors. Jizō, however, was never widely venerated in India, the birthplace of Buddhism. Most scholars generally consider Jizō-related texts (discussed below) to be products of China rather than India, followed centuries later by Japanese renditions and additions. The Jizō cult in China and later in Japan developed in phases, during which Jizō became associated with different functions and iconography. Once in Japan, the Jizō cult developed along distinctly Japanese lines, although it retained many of its earlier Chinese characteristics. The various Jizō texts, along with Jizō’s changing roles, are presented below in chronological order. 

  • INDIA. Jizō’s earliest association is with Prthvi (Prithvi), a Hindu goddess who personifies the earth and is associated with fertility and with Lord Vishnu (originally a solar god). In the VEDAS, she is celebrated as the mother of all creatures and the consort of the sky. This association with the sky is very important, for many centuries later, in China, Jizō Bodhisattva (lit. Earth Repository) was paired with Kokūzō Bodhisattva 虚空蔵菩薩 (lit. Space Repository), with the two representing the blessings of earth and space respectively. This pairing is now almost entirely forgotten in both China and Japan. But the pairing lends strong support to Jizō’s early association with the Hindu goddess Prithvi. The strongest support for the Prithvi/Jizō link, however, is the Jizō Bosatsu Sūtra (Jp. = 地蔵菩薩本願経), a 7th-century Chinese translation from Sanskrit. In Chapter 11 of this 13-chapter sūtra, Prthivi vows to use all her miraculous powers to protect Jizō devotees.
  • CHINA. When and how Jizō was introduced to China is unknown, but from the earliest extant texts (7th century; see below), Jizō is already closely associated with the earth. The deity’s name, in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese, literally means “womb of the earth,” and is typically rendered in English as Earth Store, Earth Treasury, or Earth Womb. Other early attributes of Jizō include:
    • Appears from the south, endowed with mysterious power
    • Main savior of sentient beings between the departure of Shaka Nyorai (Historical Buddha) and the advent of Maitreya Buddha (Jp. = Miroku Nyorai), the Future Buddha. During this period, known as Mappō (Age of Degenerative Law), Jizō is considered the most effective and most beneficial savior. Jizō thus embodies supreme spiritual optimism, compassion, and universal salvation, all hallmarks of Mahayana Buddhism.
    • Can assume various forms, including that of a priest
    • Earliest texts already associate Jizō with the Lord of Death (Skt. = Yama, Chn. = Yanmo Wang 閻魔王, Jp. = Emma-ō)
    • Only later, in China’s late Sung dynasty (Japan’s late Heian) does Jizō become associated with the Taoist Ten Kings of Hell.
  • JAPAN. The Jizō cult in Japan incorporates many of the traditional characteristics of Jizō veneration in China, but the Japanese developed their own distinct variants from the Kamakura period onward, including (1) Jizō’s close association with the Lotus Sutra; (2) Jizō serving the same functions and roles as Kannon Bodhisattva; (3) Jizō’s very close association with Amida Nyorai and the Pure Land sect; (4) Jizō and the Six Realms and the Ten Kings; (5) Jizō as having the same body as Emma-ō, the King of Hell; (6) Jizō’s association with warriors; (7) Jizō appearing as a young child or boy and; (8) many other forms of Jizō unique to Japanese. Since the Kamakura period, Jizō worship has attained a tremendous following in Japan, and today Jizō remains one of Japan's most revered deities. See Jizō top page for a review of Jizō’s many forms in modern Japan. 



scroll icon
Mahāyāna Great Collection Sūtra
Ten Cakras of Ksitigarbha Sūtra

Jp. = Daijō Daijū Jizō Jūrin-Kyō
 Reference: Taishō, XIII, p. 722

Translated in into Chinese in the mid-7th century by the Chinese monk Hsuan-tsang (Xuanzang) 玄奘, known as Genjō 玄奘 in Japan. The Sanskrit text is no longer extant. The sūtra’s shortened title is 地藏十輪経, Ten Cakras of Ksitigarbha. It was copied by the Japanese around +738-739 (Nara period). Another Chinese sūtra from the Tang period, known as the Ten Cakras Sutra 大方廣十輪経 (see #2 below) differs slightly in chapter arrangement, but the content of both texts is essentially the same. Jizō worship in China can be traced back to these two sūtra, which introduced Jizō as a savior who would remain on earth between the absence of Shaka Nyorai (Historical Buddha) and the future coming of Miroku (Skt. = Maitreya). Jizo would function most effectively during the Mappō (末法) period, the period of degenerate law, when Buddhist faith and practice were at all time lows. The sūtra also says Jizō appears from the south, possesses miraculous powers, and is able to assume various forms, including that of a Buddhist priest, and even that of the Judge of Hell, known in Sanskrit as Yama-rāja (Lord of Death), in Chinese as Yanmo Wang 閻魔王, and in Japanese as Emma-ō 閻魔王. This early association between Jizō and the underworld foreshadows Jizō’s future role in China and Japan as the savior “par excellence” of those who fall to hell. 




scroll icon大方広十輪経 or 大方廣十輪経
Ten Cakras of Ksitigarbha Sūtra
Jp. = Daihōkō Jūrin Kyō
 Reference: Taishō, XIII, p. 681

Its shortened title is 方廣十輪経 (Jp. = Hōkō Jūrin Kyō) or 十輪経 (Jp. = Jūringyō). A Tang-era Chinese translation, translator unknown. Its contents are basically the same as the Daijō Daijū Jizō Jūrin Kyō (see #1 above). A Nara-era copy of this Chinese sutra, dated to +790, is now a treasure held by the Nara National Museum in Japan.




scroll icon地藏菩薩本願経 or 地藏本願経
Sūtra of the Fundamental Vows of Jizō Bodhisattva

Jp. = Jizō Bosatsu Hongan Kyō; short name Jizō Hongan Kyō
 Reference: Taishō, XIII, p. 777-790

Perhaps the most widely known of all Jizō sūtras. There are numerous English names for this sutra, including Sūtra of the Past Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, Sūtra of the Past Vows of the Earth Store Bodhisattva, Sūtra of the Earth Store Bodhisattva, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sūtra, Sūtra of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's Fundamental Vows, and less commonly the Earth Womb Sūtra. The Sanskrit text was translated into Chinese by Śiksānanda 實叉難陀 in the late 7th century. Siksananda was a monk from Khotan who went to China around +695 and translated 19 works into Chinese. This sūtra contains the vows made by Jizō to save all sentient beings, and stories about Jizō’s prior lives before becoming a Bodhisattva. Chapter 13 of this document also includes the 28 Benefits to be gained by venerating Jizō and by listening, reading, or chanting this sūtra. One story in this sūtra, says scholar Yoshiko Kurata Dykstra, “recalls how a devotee’s filial piety toward his deceased sinful mother delivered her from hell. Thus the Jizō cult was closely related to the traditional Chinese regard for the family and its deceased members. According to this work, people who oppose and disobey their parents will be punished by natural calamities.” Indeed, many of the early Tang-era Jizō statues discoved at China’s Longmen Grottos 龍門石窟 (Jp. = Ryūmon Sekkutsu) bear inscriptions by devotees that their deceased family members be reborn in the Pure Land of the West. This sūtra also spread the idea that Jizō could help deliver sinners from hell and introduced the possibility of salvation for women. It was copied by the Japanese around +738 and +747. It rose to prominence in the late Heian period, along with the Ten Kings of Hell Sūtra 十王経, reflecting the growing popularity of Japan’s Jōdo (Pure Land) Sect devoted to Amida Nyorai and the notion of Mappō, which intensified fears of hell in the afterlife.

In Chapter 11 of this 13-chapter sūtra, Prthivi (the Hindu earth deva identified with Jizō) vows to use all her miraculous powers to protect Jizō devotees. See Prithvi’s vow to aid Jizō here (side page).

The 13th chapter of this sūtra is known in Japan as the Sutra of the Fundamental Merits of Venerating Jizō Bosatsu 地蔵菩薩本願功徳経 (Jizō Bosatsu Hongan Kudoku Kyō); it lists the 28 Benefits Gained by Venerating Jizō.




scroll icon敦煌本仏説地蔵菩薩経
Fundamental Vows of Jizō Bodhisattva Sūtra (Dunhuang)

Jp. = Tonkō Hon Bussetsu Jizō Bosatsu-kyō
 Reference: Taishō, Vol. 85, p. 1455

This Chinese text was discovered in the caves of Dunhuang 敦煌 (Jp. = Tonkō). It states that Jizō lives south of Mt. Sumeru, and at times decends into the underworld, where he sits by Yanmo Wang 閻魔王 (Judge of Hell; Yama in Sanskrit) to defend the interests of the deceased. It also says that Jizō comes to devotees in their last moments before death to ensure their rebirth in the Western Pure Land. Devotees are granted deliverance owing to their devotion to Jizō, which they had shown while alive by making Jizō statues, reciting Jizō’s name, and copying Jizō-related sūtras.




scroll icon金剛三昧経
Vajrasamadhi Sūtra, Diamond Samadhi Sūtra,
Adamantine Spiritual Consciouness Sūtra

Jp. = Kongō Zanmai-kyō (or Sanma-kyō, Sama-kyō)
 Reference: Taishō, IX, p. 365

A Tang-era text from China. This Chinese document describes Jizō as savior to people who still harbor doubts even after hearing the Mahāyāna teachings, thus offering the hope of rebirth in the Pure Land. It was copied by the Japanese during the Nara period, along with other related Jizō sūtras (see 1, 2, 3 and 6, 7).




scroll icon占察善悪業報経
Sūtra on the Divination of the Effect of Good & Evil Actions

Jp. = Sensatsu Zenaku Gyōhō-kyō
 Taishō, XVII, p. 901-910

This Chinese translation by Bodaitō 菩提燈 appeared sometime during China’s Sui-Tang period (late 6th, early 7th century) and helped to popularize the Jizō cult among the common people of China. <other references found here> 




scroll icon仏説地蔵菩薩陀羅尼経
Jizō Darani Sūtra or Ksitigarbha Dharani Sūtra

Jp. = Bussetsu Jizō Bosatsu Darani Kyō
 Taishō, XX, p. 655

This text also appears to have been copied by the Japanese sometime after the Nara era. Darani are mystic syllables, akin to mantras 真言 or 眞言, and used as talismans and charms to sustain the faith of devotees and achieve their desires. A copy of this sutra was among the many treasures discovered in the caves of Tun Huang 敦煌. See report on the Tun Huang texts by Mariko Namba Walter, Sogdians and Buddhism, Sino-Platonic Papers, 174 (Nov. 2006). Read the sūtra in Chinese online.




Up to this point, Jizō's association with the Ten Kings of Hell is still nascent and unclear. But most scholars concede that hereafter Jizō became closely associated with the underworld, the Lord of Death, and the Ten Kings, or Ten Judges, of Hell. The concept of the 10 Kings is a Taoist concept that was incorporated into Chinese Buddhism, rising to great prominence by the 10th and 11th centuries in China, and thereafter arriving in Japan during the late Heian era, where it greatly influenced folk beliefs in Japan's Kamakura Period (13th & 14th centuries).  

TEN KINGS OF HELL. The above Jizō-related sūtras were all copied by the Japanese during China's Tang Dynasty (during Japan's Nara and early Heian period), but extant Japanese copies don't include texts that clearly associate Jizō with the Ten Kings of Hell, a concept that originated much earlier in Chinese Taoist and Buddhist mythology. The Lord of Death in Hindu legend is known as Yama-rāja (Skt. = Lord of Death), in Chinese as Yánmó Wáng 閻魔王, and in Japanese as Emma-ō 閻魔王. Yama-rāja was incorporated into Chinese Buddhism at an early stage -- the Chinese sutras discussed above (1 & 2) were translated in the 7th-century, and already associate Jizō with the underworld and Yánmó Wáng. Chinese notions about the 10 Kings of Hell are also associated with Chinese Taoist traditions involving Tàishānfǔjūn 泰山府君 (Jp. = Taizanfukun), who stands at the gates of the underworld, controls the registers of life and death, judges the dead, and decides their fate. By the Tang dynasty, this Taoist folk deity was associated with Yama, the Hindu Lord of Death, and incorported into Chinese Buddhism, and then eventually these Chinese notions of hell and ten kings filtered into Japan during the Heian period. Various scriptures (see below) were created to support these concepts.



8 & 9

scroll icon預修十王生七経
Sūtra of Jizō and the Ten Kings

Chn. = Yuxiu Shiwang Shengqijing
Bukkyō Daijiten, III, pp. 2216-7

Ten Purifying Days of Jizō Bodhisattva (Ritual Text)

Jp. = Jizō Bosatsu Jissainichi
Taishō, Vol. 85, p. 1300

The Ten Kings Sūtra is a spurious 10th-century Chinese text. Made in China’s Five Dynasty period (+907-960), it stressed the need to make offerings to the Ten Kings (Judges) of the underworld. It incorporated Chinese Buddhist beliefs in Yanmo Wang 閻魔王 (Lord of Hell) with Taoism’s Ten Kings of Hell 十王 (Jp. = Jūō). It subsequently sparked the appearance of another text, the 地蔵菩薩十斎日 (Ten Purifying Days of Jizō Bodhisattva), an indigenous Chinese ritual text that taught devotees how to avoid sin and hell for 1,000 kalpa (incalculable eons) by focusing on Jizō at the side of Tàishānfǔjūn 泰山府君 (also written Taishanfuzhun; Jp. = Taizanfukun) on the 24th day of each month. Tàishānfǔjūn is the Chinese Taoist deity who controls the souls of the dead.

ADDENDUM ABOUT TAISHANFUZHUN: Below text quoted from Daoism in Japan, by Masuo Shinichiro, which appears in Chapter 28 of the Daoism Handbook (published 2000), in which 30 scholars in the field offer their views of the main features and development of Daoism. Edited by Livia Kohn. ISBN 9004112081. “Taishan 泰山, the sacred peak of the east, is located in Shandong (China) and was thought of as the residence of the dead. Its mountain lord Tàishānfǔjūn 泰上府君 served as the ruler of souls. It was central to imperial sacrifices (Chn. = fengshan 封禅) and when the emperor made his ritual round throughout the country would be visited first. (see Chavannes 1910; Goodrich 1964; Baker 1971).....In Japan’s late Heian (11th-12th century), two further Daoist beliefs became popular in Japan: that in the Lord of Mount Tai (Jp. = Taizanfukun 泰山府君 or 太山府君), and that in the celestial administration of the underworld run by a multitude of hierarchically organized deities. Following ancient Chinese beliefs, the Lord of Mount Tai was thought to reside in the sacred mountain of the east and serve as the ruler of fate, longevity, and good fortune, controlling the registers of life and death. He was a key subject for prayers for the avoidance of disasters and extension of life (see Sawada 1968). Heian texts also mention other life-giving gods, including general officers such as the heavenly administrators, the departments of Earth and Water, the rulers of Fates and Emoluments, and the heads of the Six Departments, and specific deities such as the Northern Emperor, the gods of the Five Realms and the stars of the Northern Dipper. A total of twelve groups of gods were offered silk and coins and prayed to for support in life and the extension of longevity (see Hirohata 1965; Masuo 2000). Beyond this, special occasions, such as war, natural catastrophes, and epidemics, warranted further ceremonies of protection and avoidance of disaster. Again the Lord of Mount Tai served as one of the most efficacious deities, joined closely by the officials of the Department of Earth. These various rites and offerings, too, were conducted by esoteric monks who were also yin-yang diviners, following a complex mixture of medieval beliefs and practices that included a strong Daoist influence.” <end quote Daoism Handbook>




scroll icon仏説地蔵菩薩発心因縁十王経
Ten Kings Sūtra.    Short Name = 十王経

Jp. = Bussetsu Jizō Bosatsu Hosshin Innen Juō Kyō

Appeared in the late Heian period (12th century). Also known in short in Japan as the Jūō Kyō 十王経. This Japanese text is said to be based on the Chinese version (see #8) above. It deals with Jizō Bosatsu and the Ten Kings of Hell, describing Jizo's role in delivering people from the torments of hell and the six worlds of desire and rebirth. This clearly combines Jizō with both Taoist and Buddhist traditions from China, and solidifies Jizo’s role as the savior “par excellence” of those who suffer from hell’s torments or wish to avoid such horrors.  




scroll icon地蔵菩薩霊験記
Spiritual Tales of Ti-Tsang Bodhisattva
Jp. = Jizō Bosatsu Reigenki
Reference: Zoku Zōkyō, 續藏經, , II, p. 22

This Chinese text appeared near the end of China’s Sung dynasty (+ 960-1279 AD) and was compiled by Chang Chin-chi (常謹集). It contained miraculous stories about Jizō that incorporated many earlier Jizō traditions. Included are tales about people who escape from hell thanks to Jizō, tales of people who are reborn in Miroku’s Tusita heaven or other Buddhist heavens, of deceased parents suffering in hell who are delivered from its torments, and stories where Jizō takes the place of certain hell dwellers to save them from danger. Such miracles were made possible by the pious offerings of living relatives who made pictures and statues of Jizō. Read the Chinese text here.




scroll iconThis page is still under construction.
Planned updates from this point forward
will focus on Japanese texts from the
Kamakura Period onward, highlighting Jizō’s
association with children, the Ten Kings,
the Six Realms, the Lotus Sutra, Amida Nyorai,
and Jizō forms unique to Japan.


Top of Page


  • Japanese Resources. Most sources point to three main Jizō-related sūtra (地蔵三経):
    • 地蔵菩薩本願経  Sūtra on the Fundamental Vows of Jizo (Skt. = Ksitigarbha) Bodhisattva
    • 大乗大集地蔵十輪経 Sūtra of the Ten Cakras
    • 占察善悪業報経 Sūtra on the Divination of the Effect of Good & Evil Actions
  • Jizō, the Most Merciful. Tales from Jizō Bosatsu Reigenki. The Jizō Bosatsu Reigenki 地蔵菩薩霊験記 is a collection of stories (setsuwa 説話) about Jizō, dated to the middle of the Heian Era, around +1020, although the exact date of compilation remains uncertain. This article, written by Yoshiko Kurata Dykstra in 1978, includes translations of seven Jizō tales, and a long review of the important Jizō texts that sparked the development of the Jizō cult in Japan. See Monumenta Nipponica, Summer 1978 Edition, Volume XXXIII, Number 2, pp. 179-200.
  • Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. The Nihon Ryōiki of the Monk Kyōkai. 日本霊異記. Its full title is 日本国現報善悪霊異記 (Nihonkoku Genpō Zen’aku Ryōiki). Compiled in the early ninth century by the Japanese priest Kyōkai. This English translation includes annotations and an introduction by Kyoko Motomochi Nakamura. First published in 1973, by Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-7007-0449-3. 322 pages. 
  • Buddhist Tripitaka Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō 大正新脩大藏經 (revised), edited by Takakusu Junjirō 高楠順次郎 and Watanabe Kaikyoku 渡辺海旭. Tokyo, Daizōkyōkai, 1924-1935. Also see the Taishō Shinshu Daizōkyō Iconographic Supplement 大正新脩大藏經図像 and Taishō Issaikyō Kankōkai 大正一切経刊行会, 1925. 
  • Bukkyō Daijiten, 仏教大辞典, III, IV, 1954
  • The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan. By scholar Duncan Williams, published in 2005. Chapter Five of this book, entitled “Medicine and Faith Healing in the Soto Zen Tradition” investigates the close links between miraculous medicine and healing practices at Soto temples. Williams lists a wide range of illnesses that were cured through faith in Jizo Bodhisattva, and translates various mircale stores of healing that center on the time span between 1713 and 1812. Sources such as the Enmei Jizōson Inkō Riyakuki 延命地蔵尊印行利益記 (Records of the Benefits Gained from Printing Talismans of the Prolonging-Life Jizō), written in 1822, allow readers to get a precise idea of how their authors understood the efficiency of specific rituals to cure specific problems. It is fascinating to note that these problems were far from being limited to physical ailments, and also included issues such as “loss of money” or being “about to commit suicide.” <Above review from the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 33/1 (2006, pages 176 and 177, written by Michel Mohr, Doshisha University.> Book published by Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-691-11928-7. 
  • Muller, Charles, ed. Digital Dictionary of Buddhism. <>
  • Nara National Museum Links
    Go to its English Page about the Ten Cakras Sutra
    Go to its Japanese Page about the Ten Cakras Sutra
    The sūtra was copied in China's Tang dynasty and is today preserved in Japan in the Shōsō-in 正倉院 repository.

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Not yet incorporated.

[py] Dìzàng
[wg] Ti-tsang
[hb] Jizō
Its shortened title is Dìzàng shílún jīng
[Soothill] " 乞叉底蘗沙; Earth-store, Earth-treasury, or Earthwomb. One of the group of eight Dhāraṇī- Bodhisattvas. With hints of a feminine origin, he is now the guardian of the earth. Though associated with Yama as overlord, and with the dead and the hells, his role is that of savior. Depicted with the alarum staff with its six rings, he is accredited with power over the hells and is devoted to the saving of all creatures between the nirvana of Śākyamuni and the advent of Maitreya in the fifth century he has been especially considered as the deliverer from the hells. His central place in China is at Chiu-hua-shan, forty li south-west of Qingyang in Anhui. In Japan he is also the protector of travelers by land and his image accordingly appears on the roads; bereaved parents put stones by his images to seek his aid in relieving the labors of their dead in the task of piling stones on the banks of the Buddhist Styx; he also helps women in labor. He is described as holding a place between the gods and men on the one hand and the hells on the other for saving all in distress; some say he is an incarnation of Yama. At dawn he sits immobile on the earth 地 and meditates on the myriads of its beings 藏. When represented as a monk, it may be through the influence of a Korean monk who is considered to be his incarnation, and who came to China in 653 and died in 728 at the age of 99 after residing at Chiu-hua-shan for seventy-five years: his body, not decaying, is said to have been gilded over and became an object of worship. Many have confused 眞羅 part of Korea with 暹羅 Siam. There are other developments of Jizang, such as the 六地藏 Six Jizang, i. e. severally converting or transforming those in the hells, pretas, animals, asuras, men, and the devas; these six Ti-tsang have different images and symbols. Ti-tsang has also six messengers 六使者: Yama for transforming those in hell; the pearl-holder for pretas; the strong one or animals; the devāof mercy for asuras; the devā of the treasure for human beings; one who has charge of the heavens for the devas. There is also the 延命地藏 Yanming Jizang, who controls length of days and who is approached, as also may be Puxian, for that Purpose; his two assistants are the Supervisors of good and evil 掌善 and 掌惡. Under another form, as 勝軍地藏 Jizang is chiefly associated with the esoteric cult. The benefits derived from his worship are many, some say ten, others say twenty-eight. His vows are contained in the 地藏菩薩本願經. There is also the 大乘大集地藏十電經 tr. by Xuanzang in 10 juan in the seventh century, which probably influenced the spread of the Jizang cult." (Tib. Sa yi snying bo) [cmuller ; source(s): Soothill]
〔梵網經 T 1484.24.1009c15, 成唯識論 T 1585.31.23c14〕

[py] Yánmó wáng
[wg] Yen-mo wang
[hg] 염마왕
[mc] Yeomma wang
[mr] Yŏmma wang
[kk] エンマオウ
[hb] Enma ō
[qn] Diêm ma vương
[Basic Meaning:] Yama
See 閻魔. (Skt. Yama-rāja) 〔一切經音義 T 2128.54.447a10〕 [cmuller ; source(s): Hirakawa]

[py] Yánmó
[wg] Yen-mo
[hg] 염마
[mc] Yeomma
[mr] Yŏmma
[kk] エンマ
[hb] Enma
[qn] Diêm ma
Yama. The king of the world of the dead, who judges the dead. (1) In the Vedas the god of the dead, with whom the spirits of the departed dwell. He was son of the Sun and had a twin sister Yamī or Yamuna. By some they were looked upon as the first human pair. (2) In later Brahmanic mythology, one of the eight Lokapālas, guardian of the South and ruler of the Yamadevaloka and judge of the dead. (3) In Buddhist mythology, the regent of the Nārakas, residing south of Jambudvīpa, outside of the Cakravālas, in a palace of copper and iron. Originally he is described as a king of Vaiśālī, who, when engaged in a bloody war, wished he were master of hell, and was accordingly reborn as Yama in hell together with his eighteen generals and his army of 80,000 men, who now serve him in purgatory. His sister Yamī deals with female culprits. Three times in every twenty-four hours demon pours into Yama's mouth boiling copper (by way of punishment), his subordinates receiving the same dose at the same time, until their sins are expiated, when he will be reborn as Samantarāja 普王. In China he rules the fifth court of purgatory. Eitel says: "He is grim in aspect, green in color, clothed in red, riding on a buffalo, and holding a club in one hand and noose in the other; he has two four-eyed watch-dogs." In some sources he is spoken of as ruling the eighteen judges of purgatory. Other sources texts say that he is a reincarnation of Kṣitigarbha bodhisattva. Also written as 閻王, 閻羅, 閻魔王, 閻摩羅, 閻老, 夜摩, 閻羅王, 琰魔, 炎摩, 燄摩, 琰摩, 爓魔, etc. [cmuller ; source(s): Soothill]

Ksitigarbha literally means "Womb of the Earth " or "the one who encompasses the earth". According to the "Ten Wheel of Earth Womb Sutra", the name represents this Bodhisattva's personality which include patience, stillness, hardness and vastness (like earth), deepness and profundity (like womb). The implication is that our mind creates all Dharma and accommodates all matters just like the earth womb. It is the foundation on which everything grows, including the immeasurable treasures - the Buddhist Way. Ksitigarbha is the bodhisattva who saves suffering beings in the Hell, therefore, is often referred to as the Bodhisattva of the Hell beings because of his vow to not achieve Buddhahood until "all the Hells are empty". This vow actually encompasses all sentient beings.

Ksitigarbha is the only Bodhisattva portrayed as a monk. He has a monk's pilgrim's staff with six rings, which signifies that Ksitigarbha stands by all beings in the six paths of existence. According to the "Earth Womb Sutra", Ksitigarbha was appointed by Shakyamuni to be the headmaster of Buddhism on Earth during the period from the Nirvana of Shakyamuni to the advent of Maitreya, the next Buddha born on Earth. As the master of the six paths (Hell, Ghost, Animal, Man, Asura and Deva) he is described as savior for all beings from suffering. With this responsibility, his status is well-respected by all Buddhas and other beings in the Ten Dharma Realms including human beings. Because Ksitigarbha is connected to deliver sentient beings wandering astray in the Hell, this expresses an extremely profound and esoteric aspect of the Bodhisattva's compassionate activity. This deepest compassion is working from the highest to the lowest. He is thus the supreme embodiment of spiritual optimism, the most profound development of Mahayana universalism.

Over one thousand years ago, a Korean Buddhist monk named Gin-Chau-Jue went to Jo-Hwa Mountain in China for Dharma practice around in mid-Tang Dynasty. Regional followers believed Gin is the emanation of Ksitigarbha therefore, after he passed away, start building temples to worship him. Since then Jo-Hwa Mountain becomes the sacred site of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.

exclamationThis page follows the treatment provided by Yoshiko Kurata Dykstra in her monograph Jizō, the Most Merciful: Tales from Jizō Bosatsu Reigenki. The Jizō Bosatsu Reigenki is a collection of Japanese stories (setsuwa 説話) about Jizō, dated to the middle of the Heian Era (early 11th century), although the exact date of compilation remains uncertain. Dykstra’s article includes translations of seven Jizō tales, and a review of the Jizō texts that sparked the development of the Jizō cult in Japan. See Monumenta Nipponica, Summer 1978 Edition, Volume XXXIII, #2, pp. 179-200.



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