Five years ago when I was very much into Qigong, one day I was standing there when my body started to turn around. The turning was so fast I felt that the whole universe was spinning. My limbs seem to be controlled by external forces, and my brain didn't seem to be functioning normally. I was really scared. Out of desperation I screamed, "Teacher!" and felt like an airplane out of control.
My teacher was far away; there was no way he could come have rescued me. I recovered on my own. However, I am still grateful to him, for he did help me regain my calm.
My feet and body felt soft and mushy, and my brain was dizzy as if the cells were still spinning. This was not a good sign, for I needed to go to Huangshan two days form then to teach a Japanese tour group how to practice Qigong. In my situation, I could run into trouble even walking in Shanghai, not to mention travelling afar. The accident happened when I was practicing Qigong. I needed to find my teacher to help me out, but he was far away and could not help me. In that moment of desperation a thought came to my mind: "Why not get help from my teacher's teacher?"
Legend had it that my teacher gained his spiritual powers on the day he saw a jade image of Shakyamuni Buddha. I jumped to the conclusion that Shakyamuni Buddha was my teacher's teacher. How I came to this conclusion is a subject for a later discussion.
That was the first time I visited Jade Buddha Monastery. I met a chubby, middle-aged woman who was telling people about her experience in practicing Buddhism. Her talk caught my interest and I asked her if she had any gongfu (spiritual skills).
The smiling woman looked at me seriously and whispered in my ears: "Even if I had gongfu, I wouldn't let people know; it would go against the basic rules for practicing Buddhism." Then she asked me seriously, "Do you recite the Dabei Zhou (Great Compassion Mantra)?"
"Who is Dabei Zhou(Great Compassion Mantra)?" I was very confused, thinking that was the name of a Buddha I'd never heard of.
She didn't answer me but told the audience: "My good friend who lives in the United States is twenty-eight years old. For the past three years she has relied solely on Dabei water to cure herself of leukemia." I was even more confused, wondering whether she was talking about a person or a medicine.
Upon entering into Jade Buddha Monastery, I saw nothing but the Buddha statute,which, along with the whole environment, naturally inspired solemn sincerity. My body felt weak and heavy. I leaned against a pillar and closed my eyes. I didn't know how to recite any mantra or Sutra, so I just recited quietly, "Buddha, Buddha, Buddha..." I inhaled the fragrant air while listening to the sound of the Buddha's name. An old man asked in the silence, "What are you reciting?" When I opened my eyes, an old monk with white eyebrows and beard was standing before me and gazing at me kindly. I wanted to kid him, so I said, "I was reciting a Sutra."
"Which one?" He didn't let me off easily.
"The Vajra Sutra." This was my second lie, and my face was red.
The monk shook his head and asked, "Why don't you recite the Dabei Zhou?"
I was stunned, for it seemed these three characters were following me all the time. I said: "Master, I have to confess that I've never read any Sutra, and I don't understand what you're talking about."
"Follow me," he said.
He took me to his room, brought out a very thick book, and started to lecture. I didn't quite get what he said, and I felt like a baby exploring the world for the first time. Suddenly he changed the topic and said, "I know your body feels weak and your head is dizzy. Is this your first visit?"
I felt inspired, like someone who hears the word "candy" in an unrelated statement.
I immediately concentrated my mind, but he stopped talking, pulled out a booklet from the thick book, and said "Dabei Zhou."
"Dabei Zhou?" I was so excited and thought I must have an affinity with it, for it seemed to have borught definite benefit to my body and mind so many times
"Why don't you take it home and recite it seven times, and then recite whenever you have time." The monk dismissed me with a wave of his sleeve. I bowed to take my leave and felt very happy, like some lucky person who has just had an adventure. That evening I recited the mantra seven times, and my dizziness went away. When I rose the next morning, my body was smooth and my head was clear, and my whole chest felt like the blue sky washed with water. I never knew there existed such a jewel like this in the world. From then on, the Dabei Zhou was ingrained in my mind.
Monkey's magic rod can shrink and expand to protect itself and control the demons. Why was I reciting Great Compassion Mantra? Had I not fallen, would I have encountered it? Do all the many people who fall in this world get to encounter it? Would anyone who has affinities with this mantra suffer from sickness? When and where will the mantra appear, and why?
Once I memorized the mantra and its mystery disappeared, its beauty began to manifest in the sounds of recitation. Each rhythm is like a petal, and the entire flower is inconceivable. The Great Compassion Mantra is like a huge, inconceivable, heavenly flower.
One day my daughter told me there was a novel regarding the mantra in Su Ching's collection. I was surprised and found the article "The Secret of the Pendant." The story goes like this: A man hated all women because his own wife was unfaithful. Fearing that his daughter would be like his wife, he pushed her off a cliff, and then left home to join the military. When the army was retreating and other people were looting goods, he was raping women in vengeance. Later, regretting his behavior, he went into a monastery, where the sight of the solemn statues made him frightened of his own offenses. He requested to leave home, but the abbot did not permit it. The abbot taught him to recite the Great Compassion Mantra so that he would be safe from disasters. Later he fell in love with a girl who looked like his daughter. Before he died, he gave the girl a pendant containing the mantra, which he had recited ten thousand times.
This story shows that once you give up your butcher's knife, you can become enlightened. The author illustrated the desperation and hope of human life, and the mantra symbolized a soothing power. I doubt the author truly understood the mantra, but people with affinities are called, and the calling is so strong that it can only be described as "great kindness and compassion."
Speaking of great kindness and compassion reminds me of Guanyin Bodhisattva, who gave us the mantra with a beautiful story. Once when Buddha was ready to preach, his disciple Guanyin Bodhisattva, by his spiritual powers, emitted light which shone upon the mountains and rivers. When another disciple placed his palms together and asked the Buddha the cause for the light, the Buddha told everyone that the light was the work of a Bodhisattva in the assembly named One Who Contemplates Sounds at Ease, who accomplished great kindness and compassion countless ages ago, and who skillfully practiced infinite dharani doors. At that time, Guanyin Bodhisattva stood up and told the Buddha that he had attained the Great Compassion Dharani Mantra, which can prolong life, bestow wealth, diminish bad karma, dispel obstacles and fear, increase good dharmas, and fulfill all wishes. The Buddha replied that it was time to speak the mantra to benefit living beings. That's how we came to know of the mantra.
How did Guanyin Bodhisattva learn of the mantra? Limitless eons ago, he heard the teachings and received the mantra from Thousand Lights King Peacefully Dwelling Thus Come One. That Buddha anointed his head and asked him to uphold the mantra to benefit living beings in the world. Guanyin Bodhisattva, who was at the First Ground, immediately attained to the Eighth Ground upon hearing the mantra. Guanyin Bodhisattva was joyful, and vowed that if he could benefit living beings in the future, he would attain a thousand hands and a thousand eyes. Immediately after making that vow, he gained a thousand hands and eyes, and thousands of Buddhas in the ten directions shone their light upon him. He transcended limitless eons of birth and death, and was always born at the time of a Buddha. He was born from a lotus, and had no suffering. For countless eons, he has been upholding the mantra without cease. And he has vowed that he will not attain enlightenment if anyone who believes in and recites the mantra falls into the three evil paths instead of going to the Buddhalands, or is unable to eliminate their karma.
The mantra's full name is "The Vast, Great, Perfect, Unobstructed Great Compassion Dharani." Later on people added Guanyin Bodhisattva's name to the title, making it "The Vast, Great, Perfect, Unobstructed Great Compassion Dharani of Guanyin Bodhisattva, Who Has a Thousand Hands and a Thousand Eyes." It is called the "Great Compassion Mantra" for short.
I once bought a tape of the mantra made by a company in Shanghai; the sound was smooth and continuous, and the rhythm was like a breeze touching my face, yet so powerful that it held me mesmerized. Later on, I heard another tape of my friend's, also very touching, but with a fancier rhythm and a deeper tone, like rolling thunder. All in all, no matter how the mantra is presented, it sounds good because it comes from kindness and compassion.
Once a friend commented that he heard nothing but "la la la" in the mantra. Someone once asked Guanyin Bodhisattva about the characteristics of the Great Compassion Mantra. The Bodhisattva replied:"The mind of great compassion is a mind of equality, no gain, no attachment, emptiness, respect, modesty, no disorder, no substitution, and unsurpassed Bodhi; these are the characteristics of the dharani."
Going through these comments, I have been moistened by the rain of wisdom again. How far away are we from Guanyin Bodhisattva? No matter what the distance is, using the Great Compassion Mantra as our vessel, we will be able to reach the beautiful shore one day. The middle-aged woman who talked about the Great Compassion water is alive among us; when we are thirsty we know what kind of water to drink. We are born with the instinct to search for clear spring water and avoid dirty water. Therefore it is very natural that we know the mantra.