The Buddhist religion practices a series of mantras or sacred pronouncements that are believed to contain spiritual and mystical efficacy. It is an effort to advance one’s spiritual wisdom and ultimately bring spiritual enlightenment.
One mantra which is considered to be the King of Mantras due to its long length and revered importance is the Shurangama Mantra, which has been practiced by Buddhist practitioners for over one thousand years.
The Buddhist Shurangama Mantra is a dhāranī or a long mantra that is mainly practiced in China, Japan, and Korea. The mantra translates to “The Light on the Crown of the Buddha,” in which the crown refers to the transformation Buddha that lies on top of the crown which spoke the mantra. Its phrases are both subtle and wonderful, with every phrase having its own unique function and esoteric wonder. It is believed to bring the fruition of light and virtue from the darkness.
It is one of two mantras that are part of the Proper Dharma—the other being the Shurangama Sutra which is a text that describes the Shurangama Mantra. According to the Shurangama Sutra, the Shurangama Mantra was passed down by the Buddha Shakyamuni to Manjushri Bodhisattva as protection for Bhikshu Ananda when he decided to become an Arhat.
The mantra is regarded as one of the most important mantras because it comprises all the doctrines of the Buddahadharma. The mantra is also known to frequently reference different Buddhist deities. It is divided into five of the following divisions which are each associated with different directions and different Buddhist deities:
1. The Vajra Division is associated with the east, with Akshobhya Buddha as the host.
2. The Production of Jewels Division is associated with the south, with Jeweled Birth Buddha as the host.
3. The Buddha Division is known as the central division, with Shakyamuni Buddha as the host.
4. The Lotus Division is associated with the west, and Amitabha Buddha is the host.
5. And finally, the Karma Division is associated with the north and Accomplishment Buddha is the host.
The King of Mantras is regarded as both the function and substance of the Buddhadharma. In fact, the livelihood of the Buddhadharma is dependent on this mantra, for it is believed that if there is not a single person who recites this mantra anymore, then the world will plummet and fall apart because the Proper Dharma does not exist anymore.
Essentially, both the flourishing and demise of Buddhism are highly dependent on the Shurangama Mantra. Its efficacious phrases ensure that heaven and earth are not destroyed; ultimately, it keeps the world from ending. It is even said that with its recitation, the heavens shake and the earth trembles, ghosts and spirits wail, demons keep distance, and mountain and river sprites hide.
As beautifully described by the Shakyamuni Buddha, the Shurangama Mantra is a veil of protection, for anyone that recites it—whether with little memory or not—will not be harmed by poison in his entire life. The King of Mantras is truly a powerful mantra that protects its practitioners from all harm and sustains the balance of life, heaven, and the earth.