Jizo & the Jizo Garden
Jizo Bodhisattva is an important influence at Great Vow Zen Monastery. A Bodhisattva is an archetypal being dedicated to helping others, and embodying specific spiritual qualities. Jizo is known for making a vow to be present with, and benefit to, all suffering beings, until every single one awakens. It is this vow that inspired the monastery’s name.
Jizo is also the protector of women, children, and travelers, and specifically helps children that have died navigate the transition between life and death. There is a tradition in Zen monasteries in Japan of offering Jizo ceremonies to help ease the grief of women who have lost children.
Jizo Remembrance Ceremony
In the introduction to her book Jizo Bodhisattva, Chozen Bays Roshi describes her work with child abuse, and the accumulated suffering she was carrying after working in the field for ten years. In order to help ease the burden of sorrow she was carrying, she attended a Jizo Ceremony in San Francisco with her Dharma friend Yvonne Rand.
She writes, “After the ceremony, as I was heading back to Portland, I realized that my heart was palpably lighter. I hadn’t realized how heavy the burden of sorrow was, accumulated over ten years of child-abuse work. Also relieved was the hidden sorrow of my own miscarriage twelve years before. I did not talk or think much about the miscarriage because people could not understand long-lasting grief over an eight-week-old fetus. Until then I had discounted the power of an ‘invented’ ceremony. When I realized how important this ceremony was, and how deep and long-lasting its effects could be, I conferred with Yvonne, and began to offer the ceremony in Portland.”
At Great Vow we offer two Jizo ceremonies per year, and in August we have a Jizo celebration called “Jizo Bon”. Many Jizo images stand and sit on the monastery grounds, and we have a Jizo Garden in the forest behind our zendo.
There is a dharani (short chant) associated with Jizo, chanted at Great Vow every day. Chanting this dharani invokes the energy of Jizo, and may help dispel distressing, repetitive thoughts.
Om - Ka - Ka - Kabi - San - Ma - E - Sowa - Ka
More about Jizo Bodhisattva
Jizo’s name can be translated as “Earth Womb” or “Earth Storehouse”, and this well reflects Jizo’s qualities of caring for those who are vulnerable and supporting anyone in any realm.
Jizo’s qualities include unflagging optimism, courage, and gentleness, and a nurturing love for all beings. Jizo plunges fearlessly into any place or situation to help those in need. Jizo has a special relationship with women who have lost children. Jizo is also a benefit for travelers at important life crossroads who may be facing great challenges.