The Love of Life

65. Ten Days Before the Plow

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Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is called Titsang, Jizo, or Earthstore, in Chinese, Japanese, and English. He is so kind that he enters Hell to save suffering souls.

In a temple on Nine Flower Mountain in Anhui you can see the body he left behind after one of his reincarnations. In 1840, a group of believers went to pay their respects to him, but among them was a mean guy named Tiao Tsuan. He loved to eat meat, especially beef. But cows and bulls are big, patient animals, and since Chinese farmers plow with water buffaloes, beef is taboo for most Chinese. In the temple they visited, they saw a picture teaching people to be nice to cows and bulls.

Tiao didn’t think much of that. He sniffed and said, “Not me! I can’t do without beef, let me tell you!”

No sooner had the words left his mouth than he dropped to the floor, foaming at the mouth and twitching.

“He has desecrated the temple!” The whole group got down on their knees to plead Ksitigarbha to forgive Tiao. He stopped twitching, but he didn’t seem to know who or where he was.

His friends put him on a stretcher and took him to the house of a relative who lived nearby. “We don’t have a bedroom for him, so he’ll have to go into the study,” his relative said. They were afraid he might go into another fit, so they tied him to the couch and made plans to take him home the next day.

The next morning when they opened the door, the study looked like a typhoon had hit. Somehow Tiao had gotten out of the ropes. All the furniture was turned over, there were books and papers all over the floor, and the blanket they had covered him with was in shreds. Tiao was down on all fours, snorting and pawing like a bull.

Somehow they got him back to his own house. When his wife saw him, she fainted dead away. She woke up and wailed and asked what had happened to her husband.

When she heard, the whole family swore off beef immediately. They made a vow that every summer, they would make a pilgrimage to Nine Flower Mountain.

They prayed and prayed, but Tiao stayed down on all fours and kept crawling back and forth across the room. Nobody could stop him, even if they tied him.

His family kept asking Ksitigarbha for help. Suddenly, on the tenth day, Tiao dropped to the floor again. When he opened his eyes again, he was normal.

“What happened to you?” his relatives crowded around to ask.

“Don’t ask! I’ve spent the last ten days plowing fields,” Tiao answered with a shudder.

From then on, Tiao never ate another piece of meat. Whenever he saw a cow or bull, he made a special point of patting it and saying a few kinds words to it.

He knew what it was like.


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