Benefiting the Living and the Dead
At that time Earth Store Bodhisattva, Mahasattva
said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, I see that every single
movement or stirring of thought on the part of beings of Jambudvipa
is an offense. Beings tend to use up the wholesome benefits they
gain; many of them end up retreating from their initial resolve.
If they encounter evil conditions, they augment them with every
They are like people trying to carry heavy
rocks while walking through mud. Each step becomes more difficult
and the rocks more cumbersome as their feet sink deeper. If they
meet a mentor, he may be strong enough to lighten or even totally
remove their burdens. Helping them thus, the mentor will urge
them to step on solid ground, pointing out that once they reach
a level place they should remain aware of that bad path and never
traverse it again.
"World Honored One, the bad habits of beings
range from minor to major. Since all beings have such habits,
their parents or relatives should create blessings for them when
they are on the verge of dying in order to assist them on the
That may be done by hanging banners and canopies;
lighting oil lamps; reciting the sacred Sutras; making offerings
before the images of Buddhas or sages.
Another way to assist them is by reciting
the names of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Pratyekabuddhas so that
the recitation of each name passes by the ear of the dying one
and is heard in his fundamental consciousness.
"Suppose the evil karma created by beings
were such that they should fall into the evil destinies. If their
relatives cultivate wholesome causes on their behalf when they
are close to death, then their manifold offenses can be dissolved.
If relatives can further do many good deeds
during the first forty-nine days after the death of such beings,
then the deceased can leave the evil destinies forever, be born
as humans and gods, and receive supremely wonderful bliss. The
surviving relatives will also receive limitless benefits.
"Therefore, before the Buddhas, World Honored
Ones, as well as before the gods, dragons, and the rest of the
Eightfold Division, humans and non-humans, I now exhort beings
of Jambudvipa to be careful to avoid harming, killing, and doing
other unwholesome deeds; to refrain from worshipping ghosts and
spirits or making sacrifices to them; and to never call on mountain
sprites on the day of death.
Why is that?
"Killing, harming, and making sacrifices are
not the least bit helpful to the deceased. Such acts only bind
up the conditions of offenses so that they grow ever more deep
The deceased might have been due to increase
his potential for Sagehood or gain birth among humans or gods
in his next life or in the future. But when his family commits
offenses in his name, he will resent the disasters he inherits,
and his good rebirth will be delayed.
How much more would that be the case for people
on the verge of death who during their lives had planted few good
roots. Each offender has to undergo the bad destinies according
to his own karma. How could anyone bear to have relatives add
to that karma?
"That would be like having a neighbor add
a few more things to a load of over a hundred pounds being carried
by someone who had already traveled a long distance and who had
not eaten for three days. By adding that extra weight, that person's
burden would become even more unbearable.
"World Honored One, I see that beings of
Jambudvipa will themselves receive the benefit of any good deeds
they are able to do within the Buddha's teaching. That holds true
even when the deeds are as small as a strand of hair, a drop of
water, a grain of sand, or a mote of dust."
After that had been said, an Elder named
Great Eloquence arose in the assembly. He had long since realized
Non-production and was only appearing in the body of an Elder
to teach and transform those in the Ten Directions.
Placing his palms together respectfully,
he asked Earth Store Bodhisattva, "Great Lord, after people in
Jambudvipa die and their close and distant relatives generate
merit by making meal offerings and doing other such good deeds,
will the deceased obtain merit and virtue significant enough to
bring about their liberation?
Earth Store replied, "Elder, based on the
awesome power of the Buddhas, I will now proclaim this principle
for the sake of beings of the present and future.
Elder, if beings of the present and future
when on the verge of dying hear the name of one Buddha, one Bodhisattva,
or one Pratyekabuddha, they will attain liberation whether they
have offenses or not.
"When men or women laden with offenses who
failed to plant good causes die, even they can receive one-seventh
of any merit dedicated to them by relatives who do good deeds
on their behalf. The other six-sevenths of the merit will return
to the living relatives who did the good deeds.
It follows that men and women of the present
and future who cultivate while they are strong and healthy will
receive every portion of the benefit derived."
"The arrival of the Great Ghost of Impermanence
is so unexpected that the deceased ones' consciousnesses first
roam in darkness and obscurity, unaware of offenses and blessings.
For forty-nine days they are as if deluded
or deaf, or as if in courts where their karmic retributions are
being decided. Once judgment is fixed, rebirths are undergone
according to their karma.
In the time before rebirths are determined,
the deceased suffer thousands of myriads of concerns. How much
more is that the case for those who are to fall into the bad destinies.
"Throughout forty-nine days those whose lives
have ended and who have not yet been reborn will be hoping every
moment that their immediate relatives will earn blessings powerful
enough to rescue them.
At the end of that time the deceased will
undergo retribution according to their karma. If someone is an
offender, he may pass through hundreds of thousands of years without
even a day's liberation.
If someone's offenses deserve Fivefold Relentless
Retribution, he will fall into the great hells and undergo incessant
suffering throughout hundreds of thousands of eons."
"Moreover, Elder, when beings who have committed
karmic offenses die, their relatives may prepare vegetarian offerings
to aid them on their karmic paths.
In the process of preparing the vegetarian
meal and before it has been eaten, rice-washing water and vegetable
leaves should not be thrown on the ground. Before the food is
offered to the Buddhas and Sangha no one should eat it.
If there is laxness or transgression in this
matter, then the deceased will receive no strength from it.
If purity is vigorously maintained in making
the offering to the Buddhas and Sangha, the deceased will receive
one-seventh of the merit.
Therefore, Elder, by performing vegetarian
offerings on behalf of deceased fathers, mothers, and other relatives
while making earnest supplication on their behalf, beings of Jambudvipa
benefit both the living and the dead."
After that was said, hundreds of thousands
of millions of nayutas of ghosts and spirits of Jambudvipa
who were in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven, made the unlimited
resolve to attain Bodhi.
The Elder Great Eloquence made obeisance and