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  • Writer's pictureRyan Burton

BUDDHA'S DISCOURSE ON LIBERATING HUNGRY GHOSTS

The Buddha’s Discourse on the Scripture of the Spell for Saving the Burning-Mouth Hungry Ghost translated by Charles Orzech



At that time the World-Honored One was residing at Kapilavastu at the Banyan Monastery, with all the monks and bodhisattvas—an innumerable assembly. They surrounded him and he expounded the teaching on their behalf. At that time Ananda was alone in a quiet place contemplating the teaching he had received. Just after the third watch of the night he saw a hungry ghost whose name was Burning Mouth. His appearance was repulsive, his body was emaciated. His mouth was fiery and his throat was like a needle. His hair was disheveled, his nails and teeth were long and sharp. He was very frightening. He stopped before Ananda and said, “After three days your allotted lifespan will be exhausted and then you will be born among the hungry ghosts.” At that time, when Ananda had heard these words he became terrified and asked the hungry ghost, “If after I die I am born among the hungry ghosts, is there any skillful means which may be rracticed to escape such grief?”


Then the hungry ghost told Ananda: “Tomorrow, if you are able to distribute bushels of provisions in measure like those used in the city of Magadha, to the one hundred thousand myriads of hungry ghosts— ghosts numberless as the sands of the Ganges— and to the one hundred thousand brahmins and seers, and so forth, and if you distribute one bushel of food and drink [to each being], and on my behalf present these offerings to the three jewels, then you will attain increased longevity and cause me to depart from the suffering of the hungry ghosts and to attain birth in Heaven.”


Ananda looked at this Burning Mouth hungry ghost; his body and appearance was withered and extremely emaciated, his mouth was fiery and his throat was like a needle. His hair was disheveled and his nails and teeth were long and sharp. Moreover, having heard such disagreeable news, he was terrified and the hair on his body stood on end. He forthwith got up from his seat and hastened to the Buddha and fell prostrate, touching his head to the Buddha’s feet. His body was trembling as he said to the Buddha: “Can you save me from suffering? I was alone in a quiet place meditating on the teaching I had received when I saw Burning Mouth, a hungry ghost, who told me that ‘after three days it is certain that your lifespan will be used up and you will be born among the hungry ghosts.’ I then asked how I could escape such suffering, and the hungry ghost replied: ‘If now you are able to distribute every sort of food and drink to one hundred thousand myriads of hungry ghosts— ghosts numberless as the sands of the Ganges— and to the one hundred thousand brahmins and seers, and so forth, you will get increased longevity.’ World-Honored One, how will I be able to help so many hungry ghosts, seers, and others to food?”


Then the World-Honored One told Ananda: “Now do not fear, I have a skillful means which will enable you to distribute every sort of food and drink to so many hundreds of thousands of hungry ghosts—ghosts numberless as the sands of the Ganges—as well as to all of the brahmins and seers and so forth. Do not worry.”


The Buddha then explained to Ananda, “I have a spell called The Wonderous Victorious Power of Unlimited Awesome Self-Existent Light. If one chants this spell, then one will be able to completely satisfy with excellent food and drink hungry ghosts as numberless as sands of the Ganges, as well as brahmins, seers, and so forth. Through its use each and every one of this throng of beings will get forty-nine ‘Magadha’ bushels of rice. Ananda, in a previous existence I was a brahmin in the place of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and in the world of the Self-Existent and Awesome Thus-Come One, and therefore I received this spell. [It] enables one to distribute every sort of food and drink to numberless hungry ghosts, seers, and so forth. It causes all the hungry ghosts to be liberated from their suffering bodies and to attain birth in Heaven. Ananda, if you now receive and keep it, your blessings and lifespan all will get increased.”


At that time on Ananda’s behalf the World-Honored One pronounced the spell:

NAMO SARVA TATHAGATA AVALOKITA SAMVARA SAMVARA HUM.


The Buddha told Ananda, “If there are good sons and good daughters who want and seek long life, merit, and prosperity, and [want] quickly to be able to fulfill the perfection of giving, then every morning— or at any time when there are no hindrances— take a clean vessel and using pure water set out a little drink and rice or various cakes and so on. Using the right hand put these in the vessel and recite the previous spell seven times. Afterward, invoke the names of the four Thus-Come Ones.


"NAMO BHAGAVATE PRABHUTA-RATNAYA TATHAGATAYA. Because of the power [generated by] invoking the name of the Thus-Come One Jewel-Born, one is able to smash all demons and for many lives to come mitigate evil karma and forthwith you will get your merit fulfilled.


NAMO BHAGAVATE SURUPAYA TATHAGATAYA. Because of the power [generated by] invoking the name of the Thus-Come One Fine-Body, one is able to smash all ghosts and demons of vile appearance and forthwith get a satisfying and pleasing countenance.


NAMO BHAGAVATE VIPULA-GATRAYA TATHAGATAYA. Because of the power [generated by] invoking the name of the Thus-Come One Expansive-Body, one is able to make the throats of all the ghosts expand so that the food that is distributed can satisfy them.


NAMO BHAGAVATE ABHAYAM-KARAYA TATHAGAYA. Because of the power (generated by) invoking the name of the Thus-Come One Fearless, one is able to cause all ghosts and every terror to be entirely eradicated and [they will] depart from the realm of the ghosts.”


The Buddha told Ananda, “When good sons and others of your clan invoke the power of the names of the four Thus-Come Ones, they should snap their fingers seven times and take the rice vessel and sprinkle rice and water purified ground. Having done this the distribution is complete and each of the hundreds of thousands of myriads of hungry ghosts in all the four quarters— ghosts as numberless as the sands of the Ganges—will have forty-nine ‘Magadha’ bushels of rice. Having received this rice they will be completely satisfied and all these ghosts and others will completely slough their ghost bodies and be born in Heaven. Ananda, if monks and nuns and male and female devotees regularly use this spell with the names of the four Thus-Come Ones to empower food and distribute it to ghosts, they will moreover get complete satisfaction and uncountable merit. It would be no different from getting the merit from offerings made to one hundred thousand myriads of Thus-Come Ones. Their lifespan will be prolonged and enhanced and the good roots will be completed. All nonhumans, demons, and specters (raksas) and all of the evil ghosts and spirits will not dare to harm them, and they will able to attain limitless merit and long life.


If you wish to distribute food to all of the brahmins and seers and so forth, make pure water and food and fill a vessel. Then, using the previously mentioned spell empower [it] twice seven times and cast [the offerings] into pure flowing water, and so it is done. It may [now] be regarded as the beautiful food and drink of gods and seers and offered to the one hundred thousand myriad of brahmins and seers. Thus, all will obtain this empowered food. Through use of the spell of Majestic Virtue, each and every one will accomplish their fundamental vows and all good merit, and at the same time each and every one will issue a vow, wishing to distribute food to people so that their lifespans will be lengthened and their appearance and strength will be peaceful and joyous.


Moreover, the spell will cause the minds of those who witness the rite to be upright, understanding, and pure. They will each completely attain the majesty of the god Brahma and perform the acts of the god Brahma. Moreover, the merit obtained is like the merit gotten by making offerings to one hundred thousand myriad of Thus-Come Ones; thus all sorts of injustices and enemies will be unable to afflict or harm you.


"If monks, nuns, and male and female devotees wish to make offerings to the [three] jewels— the Buddha, the teaching, and the community—they should take incense, flowers, and pure drink and food and use the power of the previously mentioned spell twenty-one times as an offering to the three jewels. These good sons and daughters then may use the heavenly delicacies obtained as offerings to the buddhas, the teaching, and the community of the worlds of the ten directions. Furthermore, if you praise their merit, you will consequently have joy and merit. If you persevere in intently praising all the buddhas, then all of the gods and good spirits will come to protect you, and you will have fulfilled the perfection of giving.


“Ananda, if you do as I have said and cultivate, practice, and promote this technique, you will cause all living beings everywhere to see, hear, and obtain innumerable blessings. This scripture is called the Scripture of the Spell for Saving the Burning-Mouth Hungry Ghost and Suffering Beings. You should respectfully hold fast to its words.”


All the great assembly, Ananda and the others, heard what the Buddha said and with wholehearted faith they reverently received it and joyfully put it into practice.

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