In the Sutra of the Past Vows of Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva, Shakyamuni
Buddha explains Kshitigarbha's vow. Jizo has been enacting his vow
to help save all beings for an inconceivable, cosmically vast span
of time, and he vows to continue until the arrival of Maitreya Bodhisattva,
the next historical buddha. Jizo has liberated countless beings over
many ages and set them on the path to full awakening, and he vows to
remain in the world for the benefit of those still suffering. Jizo
helps liberate beings by warning them of the unfortunate consequences
of their particular misconducts.
Because of his vow to remain present with beings in all the realms, Jizo is very close and accessible to all of us. This closeness is a feeling held by many East Asian Buddhists and accounts for his special popularity.
Jizo's powerful vow is to be present for all suffering beings in all six realms. Jizo is everywhere, but he is particularly known and appreciated for aiding hungry ghosts and beings in hell.
The six realms
Traditionally, Jizo is guardian of
and guide to the underworld and the intermediate state between births,
especially benefiting those in the hell realms. As friend to those
in hell, Jizo loyally stands by and comforts the tortured, the wretched,
and the afflicted. But Jizo is also ever present in the other five
realms, or worldly destinies, of Buddhist cosmology. These realms are
the physical situations in which beings are incarnated during the rounds
of rebirth due to the cause-and-effect workings of karma. But the six
realms are also a psychological teaching and can be understood as the
basic mental states that any of us might experience during the course
of a week or even a day.