Tusita’s Last Tenant

The tale of a Buddhist heaven and a few of the people who pass through it.


Author’s notes: Most of the relevant Buddhist concepts are explained over the course of the story, though of course I’ve taken some creative liberties.

  • Tusita (“Contented”) is one of several heavenly realms in traditional Buddhist cosmology. All bodhisattvas come here before the rebirth in which they finally become a buddha. According to the Pali Canon, a single day in Tusita is approximately 400 years.
  • Devas are gods/demigods who dwell in various heavenly realms. Some assist bodhisattvas and buddhas.
  • Ksitigarhba Bodhisattva (Sanskrit), also known as Dizang Pusa (Chinese) and Jizo Bosatsu or Ojizosama (Japanese), is a beloved figure in Mahayana (East Asian) Buddhism. Considered protector of women, children, and travelers, he first appears in the Ksitigarbha (“Earth Matrix”) Sutra. It relates the story of a maiden who, while rescuing her mother from hell, is moved by the suffering of the beings she witnesses and makes a Great Vow to save all of them. Through numerous reincarnations, she eventually becomes Ksitigarbha. Unlike most bodhisattvas traditionally depicted in the fashion of Indian royalty, Ksitigarbha usually appears as a monk.
  • Bian (“Other Shore”) refers to the passage to enlightenment. Bianhua (“Flower of the Other Shore”) is the Chinese name for the red spider lily. The Japanese equivalents are higan and higanbana.
  • Children’s Limbo is where the souls of children who have died before their parents end up. One legend about Ksitigarbha is that he wanders this place, protecting the children from demons by hiding them in the sleeves of his robes.
  • A number of Buddhist philosophies indicate that the difference between realms, existences, and states of being are also a result of ignorance. Nothing exists independent of anything else, so the perception that they are distinct is merely another illusion and barrier to enlightenment.