IN THE SURANGAMA SUTRA
Dr. Bhikkhunī Giới Hương
THE SPIRITUAL MANTRA OF ŚŪRAṄGAMA
Ānanda, you asked the way to focus the mind and I replied that the practitioner who wants to enter samādhi must learn the wonderful method, seek for the Bodhisattva Way, and must firstly keep four precepts as pure as ice crystals without any branches or leaves. It means three karmas of the mental and four karmas of the mouth do not have the cause to arise.
Ānanda, if the practitioner holds four precepts strictly, does not attach to form, fragrance, taste, touch, then how can the demonic affairs arise?
If the practitioners cannot transform their old habits, you should teach them to wholeheartedly chant my mantra “Mwo he sa dan dwo bwo da la—the Illuminating Buddha
Head.” This is the spiritual mantra of Śūraṅgama spoken by the undoing Buddha mind from invisible Head of the Tathāgata who appears from the summit, and sits on a precious lotus petal to recite the mantra.
Besides, Ānanda, because you and Matangi have accumulated so many causes and conditions from many past kalpas that became the craving habits. However, as soon as I declared the mantra, he who is freed forever from lust, attains arhatship.
As a prostitute, Matangi did not have the intention to practice, but based on the blessing of the spiritual mantra, she reaches the position beyond the study of outflows (āsravas). What about you, the sound-hearers (śrāvaka) in the assembly, who seek the most supreme vehicle and are determined to accomplish Buddhahood. It should be as easy as dust flying in favorable wind. Are there any obstructions?1
For many kalpas, we have created countless evils of killing, stealing, lusting, and telling lies which result in the retribution of karma. We must receive the results of the heavy or light karma
The less craving (trishna) will reborn as birds and fishes. The less angry (sadosaṃ) will reborn as snakes, cats, or tigers.
The less ignorance (avijjā) will reborn as elephants, pigs, flys, and ants.
Once we pay off the retribution of animal (tiracchānayoni) karma, but there remains the small karma so that we are reborn as human (manussa) beings who often have many hindrances as follows:
1. Due to bad habits in the past, monks or nuns easily commit the precepts of killing, stealing, lusting, and telling lies. If the lay Buddhists are keeping five precepts or ten precepts, but owing to the past habits, their precept upholding is not fully pure.
2. Due to the remaining karma, we easily become persons who are without enough sense organs in some way.
3. We are easily subjected by the afflictions (kleśa), difficult to tame. Because of the defilements, the evil (sātheyya), greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha), hatred (byāpāda, dosa), and delusion (samohaṃ) are quickly accumulated and push us continually in the three realms.
Because three things control us, especially the seeds of previous lives, so our practicing career that leads to Buddhahood is difficult to attain, and our will is shaken.
The habit from previous lives is invisible, but it governs us all the time without. Therefore, in Zen, there is a famous verse:
Enlightenment is equal as the Buddha
The past habit is really deep
The wind is stopped but the waves remain shaken
Realized the doctrine, but in reality the defilements still remain in full
Because the animal (tiracchānayoni) seed from the previous life remains to this present to make three bad karmas2 for us, such as 1) obstacles in the human body (defective six organs, handicapped, sickly), 2) the obstacle of afflictions (kleśa), sorrow (dukkha), hatred (byāpāda, dosa), jealousy (issā), disturbance (pamāda)], and 3) the obstacle karma (the bad seed of actions in the past still remain) block us on the way of enlightenment. To eliminate those karmic habits, in addition to repentance and meditation, we should contemplate to train the mind, and sincerely recite the spiritual mantra of Śūraṅgama to help us strongly uproot the profound habitual karmas.
The Śūraṅgama-samādhi mantra is also called “Mwo he sa dan dwo bwo da la—the Illuminating Buddha Head” or the Spiritual White Umbrella of the Buddha Summit Dhārāṇī (Mahā-sitātapatra-uṣṇīṣa-dhārāṇī) that mean the vast substance of the fundamental nature. “White” is wisdom. “The
Spiritual Umbrella” is the great compassion. Thus, the Śūraṅgama-samādhi mantra manifests the perfect substance of the mind nature that is called the mind mantra.
This mantra has such great power and is so effective that it can eliminate the old habits of killing, stealing, lusting, and telling great lies, especially the habits of craving. This mantra saved Ānanda and Mangati and helped them to be freed forever from the craving cloud. As we recite this mantra with a whole pure mind this matches with the original nature.
The Śūraṅgama mantra belongs to the secret Buddhist vehicle3 and is divided into five parts without explanation, while other parts belong to the doctrine in which the Buddha explains with words in detail. According to each country, the mantra is read with different sounds. However, chanted with a pure mind it has the same effect.
In most temples, the Śūraṅgama-samādhi mantra is called the early morning retreat because it is often recited at 4:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m., or 6:00 a.m. Besides five parts of the Śūraṅgama-samādhi mantra, there are the Great Compassion and other nine mantras.
This is the pure morning praying session because after having slept the whole night, our mind is fresh and pure, the daily busy work has quieted down, and so the mantra easily penetrates deeply in our body and mind. In addition, in the early morning the atmosphere is quiet, fresh, soothing to the nerves, so chanting mantras will easily increase the energy of spiritual inspiration.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER VIII
Chapter VIII discusses the mysterious mantra energy of the esoteric sect. The Śūraṅgama-samādhi Mantra is brief, “Mwo he sa dan dwo bwo da la—the Illuminating Buddha Head” or
“The Spiritual Umbrella” (compassion). It has the great characteristics and functions of the inherent bodhi nature and
the mantra mind of inactive Buddhas’ minds from the Tathāgatas’ Invisible Summit. Anyone reciting this mantra can transform the inflowing craving to attain the supreme bodhi soon. This mantra mind has great capacity and effect, and is capable of eliminating killing, stealing, lusting, and lying, especially lusting. It is this spell that saved Ānanda and Matangi from the craving cloud. When practitioners are devoted and recite it with a mind penetrated in balance with this mantra, it balances with the inherent bodhi nature.
1. Why does the Śūraṅgama-samādhi Mantra belong to the esoteric sect?
2. What is the full name of the Śūraṅgama-samādhi Mantra? What does it mean?
3. Please explain the sentence: “The mantra mind in active Buddhas’ minds from the Tathāgatas’ Invisible Summit speak out.”
4. Why can the supreme mantra transform old habits, the inflowing craving to attain the supreme bodhi?
5. Demonstrate the power of the mantra through the story of Ānanda and Matangi.