Great Compassion Mantra (Da Bei Zhou) – Nilakantha Dharani: Lyrics and Meaning


Great Compassion Mantra (Da Bei Zhou) - Nilakantha Dharani Lyrics and Meaning

Maha Karuna Dharani Sutra (or Nilakantha Dharani), popularly known as the Great Compassion Mantra (or Da Bei Zhou), is an 84-line chant of Mahayana Buddhist origin, first translated from Sanskrit to Chinese in the 7th century.

The sutra narrates a discourse between Avalokitesvara and the Buddhas, wherein one learns that Lord Avalokitesvara brings salvation from all sins, even those that were previously considered to be unforgivable sins that lead to the death of the soul.

Avalokitesvara (also known as ”the lord who looks in every direction”) is one of the most important Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. In Tibetan, He is known as Chenrezig and is said to emanate as the Karmapa (the head of the Karma Kagyu), the Dalai Lama and other high lamas.

King Songsten-Gampo (the founder of the Tibetan Empire) who brought Buddhism into Tibet is regarded as an incarnation of Chenrezig, as are the successive Dalai Lamas. Avalokitesvara is also credited with introducing the prayer formula ”Om mani peme hung” to the people of Tibet.

In Japan, Avalokitesvara is known as Kannon (Kwannon, Kanzeon). In Sanskrit, He is referred to as Lokesvara (“Lord of the World”) or Padmapani (“Holder of the Lotus”).

He supremely exemplifies the Bodhisattva’s resolve to postpone his own Buddhahood until he has helped every sentient being on earth achieve moksha (liberation) from suffering and samsara – the process of death and rebirth.

Lord Avalokitesvara is the supremely compassionate helper and is often depicted with a thousand eyes and a thousand arms for that purpose. He is also eleven-headed because when he looked at suffering humanity, His head split open from pain.

According to the Karaṇḍavyuha Sutra, the moon and sun are said to be born from Avalokitesvara’s eyes, Lord Shiva – The Auspicious One from his brow, Lord Brahma – The Creator from his shoulders, Goddess Sarasvati from his teeth, Lord Narayana from his heart, the earth from his feet, the winds from his mouth, and the sky from his stomach.

In Karaṇḍavyuha Sutra and others, such as the Longer Sukhavativyuha Sutra, He is an attendant of Buddha Amitabha, the principal Buddha in Pure Land Buddhism.

Da Bei Zhou mantra short version lyrics:

„Namo Ratna Trayaya Namaḥ Arya Jnana Sagara Vairocana Vyuha Rajaya Tathagataya Arhate Samyak Sambuddhaya Namah Sarva Tathagatebyah Arhatebhyaḥ Samyaksambuddhe Byah Namah Arya Avalokite Svaraya Boddhisattvaya Mahasattvaya Mahakarunikaya Tadyatha Om Dhara Dhara Dhiri Dhiri Dhuru Dhuru Ite Vatte Cale Cale Pra Cale Pra Cale Kusume Kusume Vare Ili Mili Citijvala mapanaye Svaha.”

Great Compassion mantra translation and meaning:

This amazing dharani does not translate well into the English language because these sacred Sanskrit words were chosen not only for meaning but also for rhythm, rhyme, and meter.

”Homage to the Three Jewels, Homage to the Ocean of that Superior, Exalted Transcendental Wisdom, The Appointed King, Vairocana, The Tathagata, the Arhat, the Pure and Complete Buddha, Homage to All the Tathagatas, the Arhats, the Pure and Complete Buddhas, Homage to the Supreme Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva, the Great Being, that Great Compassion, Thus, Om, Apprehending the Deity of Sound, Apprehending the Deity of Form, Apprehending the Deity of Sign, and the Surrounding Entourage.”

Mantra chanting benefits:

”When you recite the Great Compassion Mantra, the heavens quake, and the earth trembles as the dharani penetrates earth and heaven. If you recite it 108 times daily for a thousand days, chanting at the same time every day without missing a day no matter how busy you are, then the 10 kings who are directors in the hells in the courts of Lord Yama (Lord of Death) are delighted.” – The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

This mantra is used for purification, protection, and healing. According to the Sutra, if we recite this dharani successively with utmost sincerity and devotion, and vow to practice and meditate, it will help us to relieve from all of our miseries.

”Those who recite and hold the Mantra of Great Compassion (Da Bei Zhou) will not suffer any of these 15 kinds of bad death and will obtain the following 15 kinds of good birth:

  1. They will always meet good friends.
  2. They will always be born in a good country.
  3. They will always be born at a good time.
  4. Their place of birth will always have a good king.
  5. Their family will be kind and harmonious.
  6. Their heart will be pure and full in the way.
  7. They will not violate the prohibitive precepts.
  8. The organs of their body will always be complete.
  9. They will obtain everything they seek.
  10. They will always obtain the help and respect of others.
  11. Their riches will not be plundered.
  12. They will always have the necessary goods and wealth in abundance.
  13. In the place where they are born, they will see the Buddha and hear the Dharma.
  14. Dragons, gods, and good spirits will always protect them.
  15. They will awaken to the profound meaning of that Proper Dharma which they hear.

“Those who chant and hold the Great Compassion Mantra will obtain these 15 kinds of good birth. All people and gods should constantly chant and hold it, without carelessness.” – Great Compassion Dharani Sutra.

Featured image source – Kristina Kokhanova/Shutterstock


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