Ksitigarbha is a bodhisattva, or “saint,” primarily revered in East Asian Buddhism and usually depicted as a Buddhist monk. In Japanese culture, where Ksitigarbha is known as Jizō or Ojizō-sama, he is the guardian of children in limbo. Jizō is also the patron deity of children, expectant mothers, travelers and aborted/miscarried fetuses. Jizō statues are a common sight in Japan, especially by roadsides and in graveyards. Ksitigarbha means “womb of the earth” and this deity is known for his vow to take responsibility for the instruction of all beings in the six realms between the death of Gautama Buddha and the rise of Maitreya, as well as his vow not to achieve Buddhahood until all hells are emptied. He is therefore often regarded as the bodhisattva of hell-beings, or savior of hell’s torments.
Jizō Bodhisattva is one of two garden sculptures in our backyard. Jizō, which I purchased as a gift for my wife, is a 15.5″ figure made of volcanic stone with an antique brown finish. My two-year-old daughter refers to the dense Jizō statue as “the heavy baby.” The other sculpture, Saint Francis of Assisi, is a 20″ white stone/resin sculpture that was in the yard when we bought our house. Alongside these two sculptures is our 10″ plastic garden gnome of many travels, Dingledodger VonFefferhedge. Together they preside over our backyard cat cemetery, which includes the recently deceased The King. Happy New Year!