Tsang P'usa: Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
Tsang P'usa is an extremely popular Bodhisattva among
the Chinese and Japanese Buddhists. 'Ti Tsang', meaning
'Earth-Store' is a direct translation of the Bodhisattva's
name KSITIGARBHA in Sanskrit. Among the countless Bodhisattvas
in the universe, he and three others have firmly captured
the hearts of the Mahayanists. These four main P'usas
or Bodhisattvas are depicted in the Chinese Buddhist
Pantheon and they represent four basic great qualities:
SHIH YIN as Great Compassion;
WEN SHU as Great Wisdom;
PU HSIEN as Great Love and Perfect Activity;
TI TSANG as Great Vow to help and to deliver all beings.
greatest compassionate Vow being: "If I do not
go to the hell to help the suffering beings there, who
else will go? ... if the hells are not empty I will
not become a Buddha. Only when all living beings have
been saved, will I attain Bodhi."
Sutra of the PAST VOWS OF THE EARTH STORE BODHISATTYA,
one of the most popular Chinese Buddhist Sutras, tells
of the great filial piety, which the Bodhisattva practised
that led to his illimitable vows to save all living
beings. This Sutra was 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
this Sutra the Buddha revealed that in the distant past
aeons, Ti Tsang P'usa, then a Brahman maiden by the
name of 'Sacred Girl', was deeply troubled when her
mother died, as she had often been slanderous towards
the Three Jewels: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
save her from the great tortures of hell, the young
girl sold whatever she had and used the money to buy
offerings which she offered daily to the Buddha of her
time, known as The Buddha of Flower of Meditation and
Enlightenment. She made fervent prayers that her mother
be spared of the pains of hell and requested the Buddha
day at the temple, while she was thus pleading for help,
she heard the voice of the Buddha advising her to go
home immediately and there to sit down and practise
meditation on His name if she wanted to know where her
mother was. She did as she was told and while doing
so, her consciousness was transported to the Hell Realm
where she met a hell-guardian who informed her that
through her fervent prayers and pious offerings, her
mother had accumulated much merits and therefore shel
had already been released from hell and ascended to
heaven. She was greatly relieved and should have been
extremely happy, but the sights of the great sufferings
in Hell that she had witnessed so touched her tender
heart that she made an immediate vow: "I shall
do my very best to relieve beings of their sufferings
forever in my future lives of kalpas to come".
young maiden has since then become an accomplished Bodhisattva
through her great acts of merits and is now known as
Ti Tsang P'usa.
Tsang P'usa has often been mistaken by uninformed Buddhists
to be Mogallana who was a disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha,
because he too had a similar experience of descending
to the Hell Realm to seek and save his mother. The stories
may sound similar but they happened at different times
and adopted quite different methods to save their mothers.
others also tend to mistake Ti Tsang as Hsuan Tsang,
the famous Tripitaka master of the Tang Dynasty who
made the harzadous journey to the West to seek the Buddhist
scriptures. This is mainly due to the Sangha robe and
the five-leave crown which both are seen to wear.
Tsang P'usa is again taken by many to be "Yen-Lo-Wang"
or Yama, the "Over-Lord of Hell." It must
be mentioned that Ti Tsang is a Bodhisattva and not
a mere King of the Fifth Hell. He does not judge the
dead but seeks to save them from their suffering.
of Ti Tsang P'usa
Tsang may be represented in sitting or standing posture.
He always has a kind and benevolent look and carries
either, or both, his symbols of the Cintamani or "Wish-fulfilling
Jewel' and the "Ringed-Staff", which is also
called the Khakkhara. This ringed staff is often carried
by Buddhist monks in their travels so that the sounds
caused by the jingling rings can warn small animals
and insects of their approach lest they be trod upon
and killed. It is also sometimes called the alarm-staff.
the much treasured picture of Ti Tsang P'usa, which
is found in many Buddhist homes and temples, he is seen
seated upon a lotus throne. His hands holds the precious
flaming pearl which has vast magical powers beyond description.
He wears the robe of a Northern Buddhist monk and on
his head is the "five-leave crown, where the representation
of a Dhyani-Buddha can be seen on each of the leaves.
you have the urge to pray to this Bodhisattva for any
help, look at this picture intently for a few seconds
as you silently recite, "NAMO TI TSANG WANG PUSA,
NAMO TI TSANG WANG PUSA" before closing your eyes
to visualise him. Ti Tsang P'usa is very responsive
to sincere prayers of faith and he may yet grant you
your wish, if it is not too unselfish or unreasonable.
All may pray to him with this simple invocation and,
who knows, your past karmic links with him may yet make
you into another ardent Ti Tsang devotee again in this
standing posture of Ti Tsang is particularly popular
in Japan where he is known as Jizo Bosatsu. It represents
the readiness of Jizo to respond immediately to the
calls of help made by those who have faith in his saving
powers. Standing upon a lotus, he holds his precious
flaming jewel with his left hand while the ringed staff
is held with the right, ever ready to force open the
gates of Hell with the staff and to dispel the darkness
of the infernal realm with his luminous gem.
Tsang is at times depicted accompanied by a dog, which
also has a significant meaning. On the death of his
mother, the Bodhisattva, not as "Sacred Girl',
hastened into the underworld with the view of comforting
her and to seek favourable treatment for her. However,
he could not find her but later discovered that she
had already taken rebirth as a female dog. Upon his
return to earth Ti Tsang soon traced and adopted the
animal, which then became his companion on his pilgrimages.
popular depiction of him is in this standing or 'activity-form'
which has his left hand holding an alms bowl against
his navel, while his right hand forms the mudra (hand-sign)
of "giving consolation and peace to all living
Tsang P'usa has many emanations and he has manifested
in countless forms to save beings at different times
and places. In the Chinese Buddhist Pantheon his is
the only figure in the form of a monk. This is to indicate
that Mahayana Buddhism is suitable for both the monks
and the laity.
Tsang's compassion is not practised exclusively for
the benefit of the beings of the hell realm, he also
gives blessings to those of the world who seek his help
and he is a comforter of the poor, oppressed, sick,
hungry, and those who are troubled by spirits and nightmares.
Those who have firm faith in him can easily receive
his protection. With faith one needs to recite any of
these simple prayers:
TI TSANG WANG P'USA' or
"NAMO KSITIGARBHA BODHISATTVA YA".
of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are recognised by the
symbols that they are associated with. Each of these
symbols has a particular meaning which most people are
unaware of. For example, the KHAKKHARA, or Ringed Staff,
which Ti Tsang holds, is not only meant to warn small
and crawling creatures of his approach so as to avoid
stepping on them but also to inform people of his presence
through the jingling caused by the rings. Often a travelling
monk on a pilgrimage has to stop at homes to seek alms
and since he does not wish to speak unnecessarily, he
usually announces his arrival by shaking his sounding
Khakkhara is often a wooden staff capped with metal
loops or crotchets and rings, which are four, six or
twelve in number. The Four-ringed staff is carried by
a monk who has perceived the Four Noble Truths of Suffering,
the Cause of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering,
and the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering.
The Six-ringed staff belongs to a Bodhisattva who is
constantly practising the Six Paramitas, while the Twelve-ringed
staff is held by a Pratyeka Buddha who has realised
the Twelve-fold Links of Causation.
a result of Ti Tsang P'usa having made this promise
to Sakyamuni Buddha: "I will fulfil your instructions
to continue to relieve beings from their states of suffering
and lead them to Salvation. I shall strive to work hard
until the next Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, comes to the
world ". He is also adored as the "Master
of the Six Worlds of Desire," thus there are depictions
of him being surrounded by a Bodhisattva, an Asura,
a Man, an Animal (horse or ox), a Preta, and a Demon
holding a pitchfork, which symbolises the six different
forms he assumes in the six realms to save the beings
the closing chapter of the Ti Tsang Sutra, Sakyamuni
Buddha gave this advice for the benefit of all human
to me carefully and I shall tell you in detail. If virtuous
ones of the future see the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's
image, hear the Ksitigarbha Sutra, chant this Sutra,
make offerings to Ksitigrabha, pay homage to him, they
will receive these benefits:
They will be protected by devas and dragons.
2. Their ability to do good will be increased.
3. Opportunities for doing good will increase.
4. They will strive to attain Buddhahood.
5. They will enjoy sufficiency of food and clothing.
6. They will be free from diseases.
7. Floods and fire will not affect them.
8. Robbers will not trouble them.
9. They will be respected and admired by people.
10. Spirits and devas will protect and assist them.
11. Females shall be reborn as males.
12. The females will become daughters of noble and
13. They will be reborn with good complexion.
14. They will be reborn in the heavens for many lives.
15. They will be reborn as kings or rulers of countries.
16. They will have wisdom to recollect their past
17. They will be successful in all their aspirations.
18. They will enjoy happy family relationships.
19. Disasters will not affect them.
20. Their bad karma will be removed.
21. Wherever they go, they are safe.
22. They shall always have peaceful dreams.
23. Their deceased relatives shall be free from sufferings.
24. They will be reborn with happiness.
25. They will be praised by divine beings.
26. They will be intelligent and skilful.
27. They will have compassion for others.
28. They will finally attain Buddhahood.
birthday of Ti Tsang P'usa falls on the 30th day of
the 7th moon of the Chinese lunar calendar. All over
the world Buddhist temples offer prayers to Ti Tsang
P'usa during the 7th lunar month for the benefit of
Tsang's popularity among the Chinese and Japanese Buddhists
is second only to Kuan Shih Yin P'usa as he takes upon
himself the fearful and difficult task of bringing relief
and consolation to the suffering beings of hell.