Amitabha’s Sacred Name Saves the Souls of 96 Cattle
The 96 souls refer to the cattle slaughtered in a previous life by Ms. Nie, the housemaid of lay practitioner Liu Jingmi of southern Sichuan Province. Nie, a Sichuanese, had regularly been troubled by spirits and demons since her marriage. The episodes would flare up several times a year, causing her great distress.
In February 1932, Nie was serving as a domestic helper in the Liu household when she suddenly fell ill. Painful and itchy red scabs appeared all over her body. In her anguish, she wanted to kill herself. She went searching for a river, but was prevented from throwing herself into the water by local people. In a crazed manner, she loudly sang a plaintive song of cattle slaughter. Her tones were clear and crisp, as she continued with her ruckus.
Householder Liu Jingmi approached and asked what the matter was. The reply: “My master is generous indeed. We are not Ms. Nie, but the cattle she slaughtered many lifetimes ago when she was a butcher in Wan County. There are 96 of us, and we have come to seek her life as compensation.”
Liu told them, “You are really confused. Actually it was you who killed her first, then became the cattle that she slaughtered. Otherwise, isn’t it too much of a coincidence that she should have killed only the 96 of you? Now you forget you had taken her life and only recall that she had killed you. If you persist in seeking revenge, you will only prolong the cycle of suffering. What benefit could there be in this killing and counter-killing?”
“If that is so, we would be wrong,” replied the cattle. “But our necks still bleed and the pain continues. When we remember the source of our suffering, we are seized by vengeful thoughts.”
“This isn’t hard to resolve,” said Liu. He instructed a servant to fetch half a cup of water and recited the Sweet Dew Mantra three times. Then he asked Nie to drink the water. Unable to bend her wrist, she said, “How can I hold the cup with my hoof?” Liu told the servant to pour the water into her mouth.
“What marvelous water!” she exclaimed after drinking it. She then touched her own throat and cried, “It’s cured!” After feeling her hands she marveled, “The hooves are gone!” Brushing them against her head, she said: “And so are the horns!”
Amid her joy, she cried into the air, “I tell you: If you address me once more as Bodhisattva Ox King, I will not spare you!”
At this point, Liu Jingmi explained how suffering accompanies unenlightened rebirth. He also praised the peace and joy to be found in the Land of Bliss, whose denizens are forever exempt from the cycle of suffering. He asked the oxen, “Are you willing to be reborn there?”
They replied, “If things are as you say, how can we not be? But with our heavy negative karma, how can we be reborn there?”
Said Liu, “ If you resolve to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha and admire and delight in his Land of Bliss, I will ask Amitabha on your behalf to deliver you – all right?”
“Very well, very well,” they replied. “But since we have been hungry a long time, perhaps you can give us some food?”
Liu promised to do so. He filled a clean cup with water and rice, and recited the Food Transformation Mantra seven times. Then he scattered the cup’s contents into a nearby bamboo grove. Soon enough, the cattle spirits said, “We have eaten our fill” and offered happy thanks.
Liu Jingmi lit some candles and placed them on the ground near a rear window of his home, offering them to Amitabha Buddha. On behalf of the ox spirits, he recited the Rebirth Mantra, the Heart Sutra, the Great Compassion Mantra and the names of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
“Quickly – look,” he said. “Amitabha has already arrived. He is standing outside the window, 16 feet tall and with a golden complexion. Please get ready to follow him!”
From inside the house, Liu’s wife Wang Zhixi asked, “Can you see the Pure Land?” “Yes,” came the response. “What is it like?” asked Wang. The ox spirits described in detail what they saw – which matched the descriptions in the Pure Land sutras.
Just before departing, the spirits said sincerely and thankfully, “In one stroke, your splendid act has released us from the grievances accumulated over many lifetimes. We have troubled this woman for many years, causing her much suffering. Today, thanks to Amitabha Buddha, we will be reborn in the Land of Bliss. As for Ms. Nie, we hope you will be compassionate and encourage her to recite Amitabha’s name, so she too can gain rebirth in the Pure Land. When you and your wife are reborn there in future, we will accompany Amitabha Buddha to welcome you, returning the merit of your recitations today.” The spirits then fell silent.
Soon after, Ms. Nie regained consciousness. When her employer asked what had happened, she replied: “It was as though I entered the town in a dream. When I reached West Street, I saw a herd of oxen coming towards me with a vicious attitude. Their necks were bleeding, and it was horrible. Amid my tension and fear, I heard your voice. The scene changed abruptly. The flat ground and lush woods had a crisp and comfortable air that was very inviting. Suddenly, I smelled rice that was more fragrant than usual. The cattle were eating rice in the woods, and they were dancing joyfully. I’m not too clear about the rest.”
From then on, Ms. Nie was no longer troubled by spirits or demons. She adopted a full vegetarian diet.
In the spring of 1934, Liu Jingmi became a monk in Xikang. His monastic name was Huiding. The recorded events had occurred before he took his vows.
(From Everyone Is Happy, Vol. 1 and Records of Pure Land Saints and Sages)
Good person or bad, whatever the karmic circumstances,
Amitabha will manifest with a single recitation of his name.
Though he is invisible to the eyes of ordinary beings,
Spirits can discern him with their five special powers.
To save all who suffer is Amitabha’s fundamental intent;
He does so unconditionally, proactively and equally.
Those who want rebirth and recite his name will achieve rebirth;
With such faith, rebirth is accomplished with a single recitation.
– English translation by Householder Jingtu
- Recitation of Amitabha’s name, relying on his Fundamental Vow (the 18th)
- Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards
- Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
- Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime
The 18th Vow of Amitabha Buddha
If, when I achieve Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, wish to be reborn in my land and recite my name, even ten times, should fail to be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excepted are those who commit the five gravest transgressions or slander the correct Dharma.
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings