The Shurangama Mantra is in the Shurangama Sutra. The word 'Shurangama' has the meaning 'absolutely firm and solid.' In China, this Sutra is considered one of the most important Sutras. It is said: "to become a Buddha requires the Dharma Flower Sutra; to develop one's wisdom requires the Shurangama Sutra." I'm very willing to lecture on the the Shurangama Sutra and the Dharma Flower Sutra, because these two Sutras can develop people's wisdom and lead them to Buddhahood. Not only do I want to talk about them, but I also hope everyone here will study and understand them, especially the Shurangama Sutra.
Speaking of the Shurangama Sutra, I remember in China there was a Great Master named Zhi Zhe ("Wise One") who, upon hearing the name of the Shurangama Sutra, wanted to read it. For that reason he bowed in the direction of India every day, hoping to someday to study it. Although he made full prostrations for eighteen years, he never saw this Sutra. Though the wisdom and intelligence of Great Master Zhi Zhe surpassed that of ordinary people and his eloquence had no limits, he still revered and bowed to the Shurangama Sutra. This shows how important this Sutra is.
As long as the Shurangama Sutra exists in this world, the demons from the heavens and the externalists will be afraid to show themselves. Unfortunately, the Shurangama Sutra will be the first to disappear in the Dharma-ending Age. After this Sutra disappears, the demons from the heavens and the externalists will take advantage of the situation. That is why now there are some who pretend to be experts on Buddhism, who say they are scholars of Buddhist studies or professors of Buddhism in such-and-such universities, and they publicly suggest that the Shurangama Sutra is a spurious Sutra created by the Chinese. All of you just think for a moment: Although China has produced many sages, I doubt that we could find one among them who could have written the Shurangama Sutra. I firmly believe that the Shurangama Sutra is genuine and correct, and that it offers the means to subdue demons from the heavens and control externalists. That is because the phrases in the Shurangama Mantra serve to subdue demons from the heavens and control externalists. From the beginning to the end, each line of the mantra has its mystical effect and inconceivable power. It was because of the Shurangama Mantra that the Shurangama Sutra was spoken.
In the past, someone in Hong Kong translated the Shurangama Sutra into English, but he deleted the section on the rites of setting up the Shurangama Platform and also left out the entire Shurangama Mantra. He said that no Westerners would believe in the Shurangama Mantra, that they wouldn't recite it since they consider mantras to be superstitious and don't believe in the functions of mantras. Therefore, he left out the instructions for setting up the platforms and for practicing and upholding the Great Shurangama Dharma. After coming to this Western country--the United States, I personally realized that there are many Westerners who love to chant the Shurangama Mantra. Not only do they like to chant the Shurangama Mantra, they are even able to recite it from memory! At Gold Mountain Monastery, I had a disciple who joined us in reciting the Shurangama Mantra during morning recitation and again during evening recitation. After twenty-six days of reciting it in the morning and evening, he was able to recite it from memory. The first test I gave to my students in America was on the Shurangama Mantra. I stipulated in the summer session (1968) that whoever could memorize the Shurangama Mantra would pass, and whoever could not would fail. There was one who memorized the Shurangama Mantra in twenty-six days, and another who memorized it in twenty-eight days. And now, many Western Buddhists are familiar with the Shurangama Mantra.
All of us should stop for a moment and think, "Why do these fake Buddhist experts, self-proclaimed scholars, and college professors say that the Shurangama Sutra is false?" It's because the doctrines of the Shurangama Sutra counteract the faults of these people; it clearly exposes their faults. For example, it explains very clearly that the Four Clear Instructions on Purity must not be transgressed. Since these people have no intention of eliminating their faults, they insinuate that the Shurangama Sutra was created by the Chinese. Who were the first ones to say this? The Japanese. Who told the Japanese? It is said that a Chinese Dharma Master informed them that the Shurangama Sutra was counterfeit. I don't know whether that Dharma Master understood the Shurangama Sutra. We don't have to mention his name, because it was a long time ago. Since then, people have been spreading the rumor that the Shurangama Sutra is not genuine. This shows that the Buddhadharma is declining: people within Buddhism made up such a rumor, gradually causing doubts in others. Over a period of time, people became doubtful and disbelieving, and in their disbelief they put this Sutra away in the attic. That's equivalent to destroying it, for no one will study this Sutra or have any interest in it. Over the course of time, the Sutra will disappear, not because of something like the words fading away or the pages falling out, but because, little by little, people will forget about it.
Why have people made up this false theory? Simply because they do not want to follow the rules. The Sutra also states that the various spiritual powers associated with the fifty skandha-demon states are not significant. So those people think, "Even if I had some spiritual powers, they would be considered false." I've heard that a certain cultivator in Japan has spiritual penetrations--it's said that he can point his finger at a candle and cause it to light up. Is this the case? I haven't witnessed it yet. I'm going to Japan on the fourteenth, so maybe I'll look him up. A long time ago he also wanted to see me, so when I visit him we can exchange ideas.
The importance of the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama Mantra is beyond words. Even if I were to speak to the end of time, it would be impossible to completely describe its wonderful effects. It is inconceivable. Today I'm using a very honest mind to candidly tell all of you about the wonderful effects of the Shurangama Mantra. When I was in Manchuria, whenever I met people who were sick, I was determined to cure their illness. What power did I use to cure sick people? The power of the Shurangama Mantra.
The Shurangama Mantra contains five divisions: In the East is the Vajra Division, hosted by Akshobhya Buddha; in the south, the Jewel-creating Division, hosted by Creation of Jewels (Ratnasambhava) Buddha; in the center, the Buddha Division, hosted by Vairochana Buddha; in the West, the Lotus Division, hosted by Amitabha Buddha; in the North, the Karma Division, hosted by Accomplishment (Amoghasiddhi) Buddha. These five divisions control the vast demon armies of the five directions. When you recite the Shurangama Mantra, the soldiers of the five demon armies will lower their heads in obedience. They will behave themselves and will not dare to oppose the awesome power of the Shurangama Mantra.
In the Shurangama Mantra, there is a Dharma for Quelling Calamities. When you recite the mantra, all disasters and misfortunes will disappear. There is also a Dharma for Subduing. No matter what kind of demons from the heavens or heretics you encounter, when you recite the Shurangama Mantra, you will destroy the power of the demons and subdue them. There is a Dharma that Increases Benefits. When you are cultivating the Way, this dharma will help you increase your wisdom, your resolve for Bodhi, and the power of your vows; it can increase everything. This is called the Dharma that Increases Benefits. There is an Accomplishment Dharma. When you recite the Shurangama Mantra, no matter what Dharma-door you practice, you will accomplish it. There is another dharma called the Hooking and Summoning Dharma. This dharma is to be employed when you encounter demons from the heavens and heretics and you want to seize them, just as the policemen in our society catch criminals. When you want to catch the demons from the heavens or the heretics, all the kind-hearted Dharma-protecting spirits, the gods and dragons, and the remainder of the eightfold division, and the 84,000 Vajra Store Bodhisattvas will immediately seize them. This is the Hooking and Summoning Dharma.
The Shurangama Mantra consists of five sections and can be divided into over thirty types of dharmas. It was because of the power of the Shurangama Mantra that I was able to treat people's illnesses when I was in Manchuria. However, it is not the case that just anyone can casually use the Shurangama Mantra. When one uses it, one doesn't necessarily have to use the whole mantra, because it contains over thirty types of dharmas. When I mentioned this, some professors in the United States didn't really understand Buddhism, and they thought, "Oh! Now I see that the Shurangama Mantra is just a combination of many little mantras." How ridiculous! They themselves do not understand, so they use the scientific mind of a professor to speculate on the inconceivable state of the Shurangama Mantra. This is what I've heard. What a joke!
Why do we want to talk about the Shurangama Mantra? Because it was for the sake of the Shurangama Mantra that the Shurangama Sutra was expounded. Without the Shurangama Mantra, there wouldn't be any Shurangama Sutra. Therefore, since that person from Hong Kong left out the Shurangama Mantra and didn't translate the rites of setting up the platform, you could say that his English translation is like a person without a head. What can a person do if he has no head? When we translate Sutras, we shouldn't arbitrarily add or delete sentences by interpreting passages out of context or using our own limited understanding and wisdom. If we did, it would be like viewing the sky through a reed or measuring the ocean with a gourd. This is not allowed when we are translating Sutras.
Now, we are also working on Sutra translations at Gold Mountain Monastery, and we absolutely must retain all the text that is in the Sutras. We will not chop off the head or do away with the feet. Nor will we be like a certain professor who translated liang zu zun (which means "Doubly Perfect Honored One") as "Most Venerable of Two Legged Beings," implying that we should "Take refuge with the Buddha's two legs." [The Chinese character zu can mean perfect or foot.] This way of translating (word-for-word) cannot be said to be completely incorrect, but it is quite far from the intent of the text and does not agree with the original meaning in the Sutra. For these reasons, we are extremely attentive and careful in all the Sutras we translate at Gold Mountain Monastery. We would not casually delete a paragraph in the Sutras. Since I'm talking about the Shurangama Sutra today, I have taken an opportunity to bring this up.
Excerpted from the explanation of
The Chapter on the Perfect Penetration
through Mindfulness of the Buddha
by Great Strength Attained Bodhisattva