The Great Compassion Mantra

The Nilakantha Dharani also known as Maha Karuna Dharani, popularly known as the Great Compassion Mantra in English and known as the Da Bei Zhou in Mandarin Chinese, is a dharani of Mahayana Buddhist origin. The Great Compassion Mantra was spoken by the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (who is the Bodhisattva of Compassion and known as Kuan Yin in China) before an assembly of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, devas and kings, according to the Mahakarunikacitta Sutra.  The Great Compassion Mantra is short for the Thousand-Armed and Thousand-Eyed Compassion Mantra (or Sahasrabhuja-Sahasranetra Compassion Mantra).  It is one of the most widely recited mantras by Buddhists and is often used for protection or purification.

      

During the assembly, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, whose name means She Who Hears the Cries of the World, again addressed Shakyamuni Buddha, saying,

World-Honored One, if Humans and Gods recite and hold the verses of the Great compassion Mantra, then when they approach the end of life, all the Buddhas of the ten directions will come to take them by the hand to rebirth in whatever Buddhaland they wish according to their desire.”

“Should any living being who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion fall into the three evil paths, I vow not to realize the full enlightenment.  Should any living being who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion not be reborn in any Buddhaland, I vow not to realize the full enlightenment……”

The Great Compassion Mantra, or Da Bei Zhou,  is a supreme type of mantra which can eradicate hindrances from past lives, subdue evil forces and cause all ghosts and spirits to become one’s protectors.  It contains eighty eight (88) verses and each verse has a different Bodhisattva or Buddha associated with it.  Through reciting the mantra mindfully, sincerely praying for empowerment and at the same time experiencing the power of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas’ genuine vows, and further through reflecting inwardly on one’s body and mind, relinguishing attachments and eradicating sinful hindrances, humanity would arise and Bodhi’s vow would be attained.

 

The Sanskrit language is very profound and offers many potential translations.  Below are two English translations of The Great Compassion Mantra, or Da Bei Zhou.  Many thanks to the renowned Japanese Zen Master D. T.Suzuki and  UPAYA Institute and Zen Center for their kind contributions.

The Great Compassion Mantra (Da Bei Zhou)    (By: D.T. Suzuki)

Adoration to the Triple Treasure  – The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha!

Adoration to Avalokitesvara-Mahasattva who is the great compassionate one!

Om, to the one who performs a leap beyond all fears!

Having adored him, may I enter into the heart of the blue-necked one known as the noble adorable Avalokitesvara!

It means the completing of all meaning, it is pure.  

It is that which makes all beings victorious and cleanses the path of existence.

Thus: 

Om, the seer, the world-transcending one!

O Hari the Mahabodhisattva!  All, all!

Defilement, defilement!  The earth, the earth!

It is the heart.  Do, do the work!

Hold fast, hold fast!  O great Victor! 

Hold on, hold on!  I hold on.

To Indra the creator!

Move, move, my defilement-free seal!

Come, come!  Hear, hear!  A joy springs up in me!

Speak, speak! Directing!

Hulu, hulu, mala, hulu, hulu, hile!

Sara, sara!  Siri, siri!  Suru, Suru!

Be awakened, be awakened!  Have awakened, have awakened!

O merciful one, blue-necked one!

Of daring ones, to the joyous, hail!

To the successful one, hail!

To the great successful one, hail!

To the one who has attained master in the discipline, hail!

To the blue-necked one, hail!

To the boar-faced one, hail!

To the one with a lion’s head and face, hail!

To the one who holds a weapon in his hand, hail!

To the one who holds a wheel in his hand, hail!

To the one who holds a lotus in his hand, hail!

To the blue-necked far-causing one, hail!

To the beneficient one referred to in this Dharani beginning with “Namah,” hail!

Adoration to the Triple Treasure – The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha!

Adoration to Avalokitesvara!

Hail!

May these (prayers) be successful!

To this magical formula, hail!

 

The Great Compassion Mantra (Da Bei Zhou)     (By: UPAYA Institue and Zen Center)

Homage to the Three Treasures.

Homage to noble Avalokitesvara,

Noble Bodhisattva Mahasattva, who embodies great compassion.

Om. Homage to you, who protects all those who are fearful.

Being one with you, the Blue-necked noble Avalokitesvara.

I bring forth your radiant heart that grants all wishes,

Overcomes obstacles, and purifies delusion.

Here is the mantra:

Om. You are luminous with shining wisdom.

You transcend the world.

O, Lion King, great Bodhisattva.

Remember, remember, this heart.

Act, act.  Realize, realize.  Continue, continue.

Victor, great victor.  Maintain, maintain.

Embodiment of freedom.

Arise, arise, the immaculate one, the undefiled being.

Advance, advance.  You are supreme on this earth.

You remove the harm of greed.

You remove the harm of hatred.

You remove the harm of delusion.

Lion King, remove, remove all defilements.

The universal lotus grows from your navel.

Act, act.  Cease, cease.  Flow, flow.  Awake, awake.

Compassionate one, enlighten, enlighten.

Blue-necked one,

You bring joy to those who wish to see clearly.  Svaha.

You succeed.  Svaha.  You greatly succeed.  Svaha.

You have mastered the practice.  Svaha.

Blue-necked one.  Svaha. 

Boar-faced one,  lion-faced one.  Svaha.

You hold the lotus.  Svaha.

You hold the blade wheel.  Svaha.

You liberate through the sound of the conch.  Svaha.

You hold a great staff.  Svaha.

You are the dark conqueror abiding near the left shoulder.  Svaha.

You wear a tiger skin.  Svaha.

Homage to the Three Treasures.

Homage to noble Avalokitesvara.  Svaha.

Realize all phrases of this mantra.  Svaha.