Among the great eight Bodhisattvas, Ksitigarbha stands prominent for his great compassion and vows for the sake of suffering beings residing in hells. In the Buddhist Pantheon, Ksitigarbha is one of the most highly celebrated bodhisattvas in the category of Manjushree, Avalokiteshvara, and Samantabhadra. These four represent the four basic qualities of the Buddha i.e. Manjushree for great wisdom; Avalokiteshvara for his great com-passion; Samantabhadra for his great meritorious deeds; and Ksitigarbha for his great vows (to help and liberate all sentient beings residing in the hells). The famous pronouncement of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha “If I do not go to hell to help them there, who else will go?” is the manifestation of this profound vow.
Ksitigarbha is depicted wearing fivefold ornament. Ksitigarbha is in standing posture with his right hand in Vitaraka Mudra and left hand in Varada Mudra. His symbol is the Chintamani jewel which is in the shape of a flaming pearl, supported by a lotus flower. Ksitigarbha is also represented in a seated position holding a staff with his two hands. In Sadhanamala he is of green color and shows in his two hands the jar and Abhayamudra.
In Chinese Turkestan he is represented as a good judge of the infernal regions surrounded by ten kings of hells. Ksitigarbha wears the usual headdress of which both ends hang over the shoulders, and carries an alarm staff to force open the gates of hell. In his left hand he holds the luminous pearl which dispels the darkness of the hell regions. Below the lotus on which he is seated, is his Vahana, a winged lion.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva through his miraculous powers appears throughout ten direction in an innumerable forms of transformed bodies in order to lead even the most obstinate and deluded living beings to follow the path of the Buddha. The essence of his great vows is the filial piety. To be filial to one’s parents is the practice of filial piety. The filial practice of Ksitigarbha bodhisattva is not limited to one’s parents but to all the sentient beings, who are infinite.
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