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Earth spirit

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 The earth spirit hall (tuditang) was positioned on the east side of this axis, directly opposite the portrait hall on the west, resulting in a highly symmetrical arrangement.
The earth spirit hall housed images or tablets for two classes of deities, both of non-Buddhist origin: the earth spirit (tudi shen), being the local deity for the area in which the monastery was built, and

the various protector deities of rhe monastery (qielan shen). The symmetrical placement of rhe portrait hall across from the earth spirit hall is significant, for it suggests that the various ancestral and autochthonous spirits enshrined in these sanctuaries were regarded as roughly equivalent in spiritual rank and function. These spirits were clearly lower in status than the central figure(s) enshrined in the Buddha hall (typically Sakyamuni, Vairocana, or a triad featuring Amitabha, Sakyamuni, and/or Maitreya). Moreover, the enshrined patriarchs, the earth spirit, and the protector deities all served as symbols of the founding and filiation of the monastery in which they dwelled, and all of them were worshipped on a regular basis in order to ensure the safety and prosperity of the monastic establishment. We will return to this point below.

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Buddha spoke to the bhiksus There are four great devas [of the elements). Who are those four? They are the Earth Spirit, the Water Spirit, the Fire Spirit, and the Wind Spirit. Once the Earth Spirit originated an evil view and said: I am the most power-ful]; on earth there is no water, fire, or wind." At that time, 1, Buddha, knew what the Earth Spirit was thinking: I went to him and said: "Why do you think that on earth there is no fire, water or wind?"' He answered: "Truly, there is no water, fire, or wind on earth, I, Buddha, retorted, "You must not have such a thought, that is that on earth there is no water, fire, or wind. Why? Because on earth there are fire, water, and wind. However, since the prevailing element is earth, that is why it can be called by the all- inclusive name of earth."

Buddha said to the bhiksus:“Now, for the sake of the Earth Spirit, Buddha will preach the way of getting rid of this wicked view, and by giving you joy, I will instruct you in the way of observing the precepts and of being reborn in heaven. Desire constitutes impurity; affliction constitutes trouble, thus, one must consider release as the highest value. Spread and show a pure Buddhist conduct, I will then know that your mind is pure, flexible, and joyful, that there are no obstacles and that you are easily converted. It is like the eternal Dharma taught by Buddha, which preaches and disseminates widely the four noble truths—the origin of pain, its forming, its cessation, and the way to cure it.

At that time the Earth Spirit, while sitting in a state of pure conduct, attained the purity of the Dharma eye. By way of comparison, it is the same with a white dress which easily absorbs the other colors. If the belief and the mind are pure, then one achieves the Dharma eye. If there are no doubts, inevitably, upon seeing the Dharma, one is firmly settled, one does not fall in the evil destinies, one does not face the other evil ways, but achieves fearlessness and will tell Buddha: "Now, I take refuge in Buddha, in the Dharma, in the Sangha. For the rest of my life, I shall not kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, and drink intoxicants. Allow me, Buddha, to become an upasika. (Buddhist layman) in the authentic teaching."