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More About Jizo Bodhisattva

Jizo, the Bodhisattva

Jizo Bodhisattva is usually portrayed as a child-monk, often carrying a pilgrim's staff with six rings that jingle to warn animals of his approach and prevent mutual harm.

Jizo also carries the bright jewel of Dharma truth whose light banishes all fear. Jizo travels to wherever there are people who are mired in the darkness of unhappiness and fear, unable to free themselves.

Jizo is the Japanese name of this Bodhisattva, who was also known in ancient India as Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva, the Earthstore Bodhisattva, guardian of the great earth.

Jizo and Children

Jizo Bodhisattva has a special affinity with infants and children. Jizo festivals in Japan are family celebrations. Jizo temples are decorated with red and white lanterns, and there are games and food especially for children. Images of Jizo Bodhisattva also are used during ceremonies of remembrance for children who have died.

Excerpt From Chozen Roshi's Book, Jizo Bodhisattva:


Chapter Twelve, continued

The Earth Store Sutra tells of ordinary human beings becoming bodhisattvas through the power of their vows. My teacher talked often about the importance of making vows. It took me many years to understand that vows are at the core of practice, actually are the "nuclear" core of the energy pile that is our life. An interviewer once asked Maezumi Roshi if Buddhists believed in something like a soul that continued after death. Maezumi Roshi said, "No. It is the vow that continues." A vow is like a seal that imprints itself on the wet clay of another emerging life, but it is more than a passive seal. It has a propelling energy. It proples us into the search for an end to suffering and into finding ways to help each others. Finally, when all the various schemes we have developed to do those things fail, it propels us into practice.
    All Buddhist practices involve vows. At the Zen Center we chant the Four Great Bodhisattva Vows every day:

Beings are numberless, I vow to free them.
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.

Over the years we have chanted vows like these hundreds, thousands of times. It does not matter if the vows where made when we where half-asleep or if we didn't quite understand them. We have made these promises and now the jig is up, the promissory note is due. This explains the common feeling people have. " I don't know why I practice, I just have to." "Something is compelling me to do this practice." The ongoing vow operates below the conscious mind. It is very important to shape and say our vows. Maezumi Roshi recommended starting each day with vows. There are many possible vows.They can be a simple. "I vow to do what I can to relieve suffering." "I vow to do what needs to be done to awaken fully, even if I'm afraid at times." "I vow to open my mind and hands and let go of what needs to be dropped for me and others to be free." Vows can be formal and part of a ritual. They can be simple and spontaneous. What is important is to vow. At that piont the things that are needed for the vow to be fulfilled begin to flow toward us.
     Jizo Bodhisattva is called the King of Vows. When we call upon the power of Jizo we are calling upon the power in each one of us that is always urging us in the direction of fulfilling our life vow or purpose. For all of us the fundamental vow is actually the same, to uncover and embody our innate wisdom and compassion. For each of us the specific situation that helps us with the uncovering and the embodying is different. It could be having a difficult child, caring for an elderly parent, working an extra job to earn money for retreats, or driving a city bus in a poor part of the city. When we are in the midst of these specifcs, we often lose track of our larger purpose. We get angry or impatient and we feel like we are failing. This is the time to call upon Jizo Bodhisattva.


The Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra tells of the benefits of calling on Jizo for help.

There are people who have insufficient clothing and food, who are sick and fall into bad luck, whose families quarrel, whose relatives are scattered, whose sleep is poor because of nightmares. If they hear the name or see an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva and recite his name with sincerity and respect ten thousand times, these problems will disappear. Their needs will be supplied and they will become peaceful and happy even in their dreams.
If men or women must enter mountain forests, cross over rivers, or seas, or travel an dangerous roads in order to earn a living, or because of the public good, or because of urgent matters of life and death, they should first recite the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva a full ten thousand times. The ghosts and spirits of the ground they pass over will surround and protect them as they walk, stand, sit, and lie down.


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