Jizo is known by many names, in Sanskrit “Kshitigarbha”, in Chinese “Dizang” or “Ti-tsang”, in Korean “Jijang”, in Tibetan “Sa-E Nyingpo”, and in Japanese “Jizo”. Jizo’s name can be translated as “Earth Womb” or “Earth Storehouse”, and this well reflects Jizo’s qualities of caring for those who are vulnerable, and supporting anyone in any realm.
The earliest writings about Jizo are the Sutra of the Past Vows of Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva, the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra, and the Sutra of the Ten Kings. These contain many wonderful stories and descriptions of Jizo, and give us an idea of the qualities Jizo possesses. The Sutra of the Past Vows describes Jizos vow to work to liberate all beings, in all realms, even if the good they posses is “as little as a mote of dust, a drop of water, a bit of down.” In Buddhism there are six realms (Heaven, Hell, Hungry Ghost, Fighting Gods, Animal, and Human) and for this reason Jizo statues are often found in sets of six.
Jizo's qualities include unflagging optimism, courage, and gentleness, and a nurturing love for all beings. Jizo plunges fearlessly into any place or situation to help those in need. Jizo is especially concerned with taking care of those who are vulnerable, and many stories tell of Jizo helping children who have died overcome the trials that face them in the transition between life and death. In Japan, and now the USA, Jizo has a special relationship with women who have lost children. Jizo is also a benefit for travelers at important life crossroads who may be facing great challenges.
In Japan Jizo is usually portrayed as a child-monk, often carrying a pilgrim's staff with six rings that jingle to warn animals of his approach and prevent mutual harm. Jizo also carries the bright jewel of Dharma truth whose light banishes all fear. Jizo is the only Bodhisattva to appear as a monk (most appear wearing jewels and royal clothing), and one of the two Bodhisattvas who is said to frequently travel in hell and help those suffering there.
There is a short chant (dharani) associated with Jizo, which we chant at Great Vow on a daily basis. Chanting this dharani invokes the energy of Jizo, and may help dispel distressing, repetitive thoughts.
Om - Ka - Ka - Kabi - San - Ma - E - Sowa - Ka