Today, we bring the Winter of Plenty to a close. I cannot thank all of you who participated enough - not just for the donations, but for the sense of community you have created that is allowing our temporary 'Winter of Plenty" to transform into a new form of community.
In Buddhism, it is believed that when you pass from your current life - before you are reincarnated into the next, you descend into the hells to suffer to heal the karma you could not or did not heal within the most recent lifetime. It is believed that only within the living life do we have the opportunity to make choices that lead to actions that heal both our individual and common karma. The hells are not the same as the Christian Hell, a state of permanent punishment, but rather a truing ground in which karmic healing is speeded up so you are not always beginning a new life where you left off, but are reborn one step closer to achieving Heaven.
While all are destined to pass through these places, there is a way to lift someone out of this suffering. By calling on the Ksitigarbha boddhisattva and performing charitable acts in the deceased's name they are freed from suffering and ascend to Heaven until it is time for them to be reborn again.
Ksitigarbha is a bodhisattva primarily revered in East Asian Buddhism, usually depicted as a Buddhist monk in the Orient. The name may be translated as "Earth Treasury", "Earth Store", "Earth Matrix", or "Earth Womb". Ksitigarbha is known for his vow to take responsibility for the instruction of all beings in the six worlds between the death of Gautama (Sakyamuni) Buddha and the rise of Maitreya Buddha, as well as his vow not to achieve Buddhahood until all hells are emptied. He is therefore often regarded as the bodhisattva of hell beings, as well as the guardian of children and patron deity of deceased children. Usually depicted as a monk with a halo around his shaved head, he carries a staff to force open the gates of hell and a wish-fulfilling jewel to light up the darkness.
The story of Ksitigarbha was first described in the Sutra of The Great Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, one of the most popular Mahayana Buddhist sutras. This sutra is said to have been spoken by the Buddha towards the end of his life to the beings of the Trayastrimsa Heaven as a mark of gratitude and remembrance for his beloved mother, Māyādevī. But most scholars believe the sutra was compiled in China. It stated that Ksitigarbha practised filial piety as a mortal, which eventually led to making great vows to save all sentient beings.
In the Ksitigarbha Sutra, the Buddha states that in the distant past eons, Ksitigarbha was a Brahmin maiden by the name of Sacred Girl. She was deeply troubled when her mother died, because she had often been slanderous towards the Triple Gem. To save her from the great tortures of hell, the girl sold whatever she had and used the money to buy offerings that she offered daily to the Buddha of her time, known as the Buddha of the Flower of Meditation and Enlightenment. She prayed fervently that her mother be spared the pains of hell and appealed to the Buddha for help.
While she was pleading for help at the temple, she heard the Buddha telling her to go home, sit down, and recite his name if she wanted to know where her mother was. She did as she was told and her consciousness was transported to a Hell realm, where she met a guardian who informed her that through her fervent prayers and pious offerings, her mother had accumulated much merit and had already ascended to heaven. Sacred Girl was greatly relieved and would have been extremely happy, but the sight of the suffering she had seen in Hell touched her heart. She vowed to do her best to relieve beings of their suffering in her future lives of kalpas.
Today, at 8pm EST. I will be reciting the short form of the Ksitigarbha mantra for all the people in whose name donations were given to the Winter of Plenty. You are welcome to join me, wherever you are. I will repeat the mantra 1,000 times. Originally the plan was for 800 recitations, but there are so many children on the list - a thousand it is.
The mantra is - Om Pra Ma Ni Da Ni So Ha
and here is an MP3 of Tibetan Monks chanting the mantra so you can hear how this is pronounced.
You don't have to repeat it a thousand times to participate, simply sit for a few minutes and quiet your mind. Read the list of names and hold them in your mind, then listen to the mantra or chant along with it for two or three repetitions.
Be well and many blessings for your support.
David St. Germaine
Ana M. Marquez-Greene
Madeleine F. Hsu
Catherine V. Hubbard
Anne Marie Murphy
Allison N. Wyatt
*text/mp3 source - Wikipedia and ksitigarbhabodhisattva.com.