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Kshitigarbha (Skt. Kṣitigarbha; Tib. ས་ཡི་སྙིང་པོ་, Sa Yi Nyingpo, Wyl. sa yi snying po or sa'i snying po; Chi. 地藏, pin. Dìzàng; 'Essence of Earth') — one of the eight great bodhisattvas who is especially revered in China and Japan. Having vowed not to achieve buddhahood until all hells are emptied, his activity focuses more particularly on helping those who suffer in the hell realms.
Kshitigarbha began his bodhisattva path as a brahmin woman whose mother died and was reborn in hell. Through her great compassion for her mother and devotion to the Buddha of her time, through prayer, making offerings and dedicating the merit to her mother, she was able to liberate her from hell. She then vowed to liberate all other sentient beings as well.[1]
Kshitigarbha also vowed to especially help those born in an age of degeneration or a dark kalpa and eventually attain enlightenment after countless kalpas during a age of degeneration, just like Buddha Shakyamuni.

He is often depicted as white in colour, holding a staff in his right hand and a jewel that symbolizes wisdom in his left hand. In East-Asian traditions he is usually depicted as a monk.


Buddha Shakyamuni said about Kṣitigarbha:

For immeasurable, countless great eons in the past, in places where the tathagatas do not dwell, this son of the family has completely ripened sentient beings in the time of the five degenerations.[2]

Kṣitigarbha vowed:

As the Bhagavan has done,
I too make a pledge.
And in this degenerate world,
May I gain peerless enlightenment.[3]



  1. Kshitigarbha Sutra, Ch. 1
  2. Kshitigarbha Ten Wheels Mahayana Sutra, Ch. 1
  3. Ibid.
  4. The Tibetan text in the Kangyur is a translation of the Chinese rendition; there is no extant Sanskrit edition.

Further Reading

  • Jamgön Mipham, A Garland of Jewels, (trans. by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso), Woodstock: KTD Publications, 2008.

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