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Buddha & Jizo

Jizo originated in India and are Bodhisattva or Bosatsu, one who achieves enlightenment but postpones Buddhahood until all of us can be saved.  Jizo literally means “womb of the earth” and “earth treasury”. A Jizo comes in the form of a monk, dressed in a simple robe. He or she may have a staff to shake, awakening us from our delusions and helping us achieve enlightenment. The precious jewel is held in the other hand and signifies the bestowal of blessings on all who suffer.  This jewel grants wishes, pacifies desires and brings clear understanding of the Dharma (Buddhist law).

 Jizo is the most beloved of all Japanese divinities and has taken on many roles of protection since appearing in 710 AD.  Guardian of the unborn, patron saint of mothers and children, travelers and pilgrims, firemen, and the protector of all beings caught in the six realms of reincarnation. There follows a Japanese folktale told to small children about Jizo:

Once upon a time, there lived a poor elderly man and woman in a small northern village of Japan.  One New Year’s Eve, the woman asked the man to take her carefully hand-woven cloth to town, allowing them to buy things required for the New Year celebration.

He tried and tried to sell the cloth with no luck, and became very cold and tired.  Finally, another man, also unable to sell his caps made of grass, suggested they exchange their goods, which they agreed.

It started to snow heavily on the way home.  Outside the old man’s village at a wayside, he passed the six Jizo, stone guardian deities, who looked very cold in the snow.  He put his caps on five of the Jizo and being short of one, tied his old cloth towel on the shortest Jizo.  He bowed and wished them a happy new year.

When the man returned to his cottage, the old woman gave him some hot tea and listened patiently to his story.  Rather than be angry with him, she praised his kind act of charity.

They retired to their bed early, after a very sparse supper of pickles. 

At midnight, they awoke to singing outside their cottage, a song asking who put the caps on the Jizo and much making of fierce noises.  The old man and woman were very scared, but finally the noise went away.

When they went outside, they found presents for the New Year ceremony and money, given in thanks by the Jizo spirits for the old man’s kindness.