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Jizo Bosatsu

Bodhisattva of Deceased Children

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Jizo Bosatsu

Jizo Bosatsu

© Ben Mercer | Dreamstime.com

His Sanskrit name is Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and he is known in China as Dizang or Ti-ts'ang. He is the bodhisattva of hell beings, having vowed not to enter Nirvana until the Hell Realm is empty. His vow: "Not until the hells are emptied will I become a Buddha; not until all beings are saved will I certify to Bodhi."

As Jizo, the bodhisattva has become one of the most beloved figures of Japanese Buddhism. Stone figures of Jizo populate cemeteries, temple grounds, and country roads. Often several Jizos stand together, dressed in bibs or children's clothes.

Jizo is the protector of children, expectant mothers, firemen, and travelers. Most of all, he is the protector of deceased children, including miscarried, aborted or stillborn infants. In Japanese folklore, Jizo hides the children in his robes to protect them from demons and guide them to salvation.

When he is not portrayed carrying children, Jizo carries a wish-fulfilling jewel and a staff with six rings to show his mastery of the Six Realms.

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