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    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Eight Close Sons of the Mahayana Sangha - pt. 1

    Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is often referred to, because of his vow to not achieve Buddhahood until "all the Hells are empty", as the Bodhisattva of the Hell beings.

    He is known as Ti Tsang (or Di Zang) Bodhisattva in China, Ksitigarbha in Sanskrit, and Jizo Bosatsu in Japan.

    The name of this Bodhisattva means "the one who encompasses the earth". Earth means stillness, hardness, stability, vastness and versatility. It represents our mind, which creates all dharma and accommodates all matters. It is the foundation on which everything grows, including the Buddhist Way. Store means deepness, profundity and suitableness. It represents the immeasurable treasures. He is particularly revered in China where his acts of filial piety in previous lifetimes is emphasized. In japan he is supplicated as a protector of travelers and women in childbirth.

    Askashagarbha (Skt., Tib. Namkai Nyingpo)

    Akashagarbha, Namkai Nyingpo or "Matrix of Space" is golden and may hold a jewel, though in many texts he is described as holding a lotus with a sword that radiates light. The Sadhanamala says that he is green as the dawn sky.

    Akashagarbha is the principal Bodhisattva of the Jewel (ratna) family. He is known for his generosity and meritorious acts. As Namkhai Nyingpo, he appears as a female deity.

    Avalokiteshvara (Skt. Hero with a thousand loving eyes, Tib. Chensirig, Ch. Guanyin.

    Avalokiteshvara, also known as 'Chenrezig' in Tibetan, means "the lord who looks upon the world with compassion". As Avalokiteshvara is the essence of Unsurpassable Great Compassion, he is revered as the Buddha of Compassion. The Dalai Lamas are said to be emanations of Chenrezig.

    Innumerable aeons ago, after the Lord of Great Compassion, the Noble Avalokiteshvara, attained the tenth Bodhisattva level, he received the empowerment of Great Light. Then as he was entering the final stage of enlightenment, the Buddhahood, he made this great vow:

    "I will benefit beings throughout the suffering samsara in the limitless space of the ten directions, and I must liberate all beings from samsara. Until all beings attain Buddhahood and not even being is left behind in samsara, I will not enter Buddhahood. Only when all beings without exception have attained Buddhahood then I myself will achieve it. Until then I will remain in samsara for the benefit of all beings. If I break this vow, may my body be shattered into a thousand pieces.”

    So, Avalokiteshvara resided on Potala Mountain, and liberated countless beings through his limitless emanations. In this way, he lived for many kalpas. After many aeons, Avalokiteshvara thought that he must have liberated all the beings from the suffering of samsara. But when he saw with his omniscient vision that the number of beings trapped in samsara had not diminished, and even those closest to him were going through the Dark Age of degeneration with even more defilements and imperfections, he became very disappointed. He was so demoralized that he decided to give up his earlier vow and to aim for self-liberation.

    With this selfish motivation, Avalokiteshvara broke his Bodhisattva vows, and his head and body shattered into one thousand pieces. An instant feeling of great regret made him cry out to his root guru Buddha Amitabha and all the enlightened ones for help, so that he might restore his vows to help and liberate beings. Guru Buddha Amitabha appeared collected the fragments of cracked skull, and transformed them into a stack of eleven heads and replaced them on the body of Avalokiteshvara. He blessed ten of the heads with peaceful appearances, but only one with a wrathful appearance - for those who cannot be trained by peaceful means.

    Guru Amitabha told Avalokiteshvara: "My son, it is not good that you have broken your vows. Now to restore broken vows, you must make an even greater resolution to benefit beings." So Avalokiteshvara also assumes the form of the wrathful Mahakala (see second to top most head, the top most head is that of Amitabha) to help subdue the negative influences in the Dark Age and to protect beings in the Bardo state. In this way, Avalokiteshvara became the representation of the Great Compassion of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. By praying to  Avalokiteshvara,  reciting his mantras and receiving initiations of Avalokiteshvara with great devotion and one-pointed mind, all negativities and defilements will be purified by his great compassion, boundless virtues will be accumulated and wishes will be fulfilled according to the Dharma.