The entire title of this long mantra is “Great White Canopy of Light Dharani Mantra”. It is also known as ”Great White Canopy of Light,” “Brilliant Buddha’s Crown,” or ”Unsurpassed Spiritual Mantra.”
In Sanskrit, the mantra is known as the “Sitatapatrosnisa-dharanī.” This is sometimes simplified in English to “White Parasol” or “White Canopy Dharani.” The mantra is not only extant in the Chinese text, but also in the Tibetan and Sanskrit versions as well.
The history of the Shurangama mantra
According to Shurangama Sutra, this Buddhist mantra was transmitted by Gautama Buddha to Bodhisattva Manjushri (a Bodhisattva who represents wisdom) to protect Ananda before he had become an Arhat.
It was again recited in the Shurangama Sutra by Buddha before an assembly of Bodhisattvas, Buddhas, Arhats, devas and others of the Eightfold Division of Dharmapalas.
Among the Shakyamuni Buddha’s profound teachings, this Dharani is considered to be the king of mantras because it is most important and the longest.
The demise or flourish of Buddhism rests entirely with the mantra. It is the efficacious phrases of the sacred chant that keep the world from coming to an end. But when there is no longer anyone who can chant it, then very quickly the world will be destroyed, because the Proper Dharma no longer abides.
The Dharani has 5 divisions which correspond to the 5 directions: south, north, west, east, and the middle. There are 5 divisions because there are 5 huge demonic armies in this world. The southern division is the Production-of-Jewels division, with Production-of-Jewels Buddha as the teaching host.
The eastern division is the Vajra division, with Buddha Akshobhya as the teaching host. The western division is the Lotus division, with Buddha Amitabha as the teaching host.
The central division is the Buddha division, with Gautama Buddha as the teaching host. The northern division is the Karma division, with Accomplishment Buddha as the teaching host.
Since there are these 5 demon armies, not just 5 demons, the Buddhas also cover the 5 directions to suppress the demons. If there were no Buddhas, the demons could appear openly in the world.
Practicing Shurangama mantra benefits
Being able to practice the mantra is a benefit to all sentient beings. By not being able to practice it, you cannot offer that benefit to sentient beings.
The best way would be for people to practice it for the sake of the entire world and transfer all the merit to the whole world. This Dharani is a sure sign of the Proper Dharma. There isn’t anything more important in Buddhism than this mantra.
The content of the mantra subdues heavenly demons and controls externalists. Each line has its own special function and each line is endowed with incredible strength.
The chanting of a single word, a single line, or the recitation of the entire mantra causes the heavens to vibrate and the earth to tremble. It is said that demons keep a great distance.
“This Dharani is extremely efficacious, but it is not that easy to master. First of all, you cannot be selfish; next, you cannot be out to get your own private gains. You have to be willing to sacrifice yourself for the good of others.
You have to be magnanimous and devoid of selfish thoughts. You have to have the resolve to universally save all sentient beings.
If you can embody the above-listed qualities, then you will have swift success. Pay close attention: you must hold the five precepts and practice the ten good deeds. That’s the very least you should do.” – Venerable Master Hsuan Hua.