Jizo Bodhisattva is one of the most beloved and revered Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. Jizo is the embodiment of the Bodhisattva Vow, the aspiration to save all beings from suffering. He is the protector of women, children, and travelers in the six realms of existence. In India he is known as Ksitigarbha, in China as Dizang, in Korea as Jijang Bosal, and in Japan as Jizo Bosatsu.
The function of this great Bodhisattva is to guide travelers in both the physical and spiritual realms. In Japan, it is customary to place statues of Jizo at the intersections of roads and paths so the correct way will be chosen. Jizo is often depicted as a child-monk, or as a pilgrim carrying a staff with six jingling rings to announce his friendly approach. He is sometimes shown holding the "Dharma Jewel," the calming light which banishes all fear.
Jizo is special to pregnant women and to those whose children have died. Statues of Jizo can sometimes be seen wearing tiny children's clothing or bibs. Grieving parents place toys and other offerings beside the Jizo statue to invoke his protection of their dead child. Offerings are also made by parents to thank Jizo for saving their children from a serious illness.
Chanting the mantra of Jizo (Om ha-ha-ha vismaye svaha) and other rituals associated with this Bodhisattva are widely practiced in Asia. Jizo is now becoming better known in American Buddhism, and many Buddhist practitioners find Jizo practice helpful for remembering the Bodhisattva vow which guides our lives, as well as for healing our minds and hearts in times of grief and loss.