The Great Compassion Mantra of Avalokitesvara (Kuan Yin) is a dharani to be recited for purification, protection, and healing.
The image associated with the Great Compassion Mantra is the thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara, representative of the innumerable divine manifestations of Avalokiteshvara and from whose body sprung the birth of many other divine beings. In East Asia, Zhǔn tí púsà 準提菩薩, the Great Buddha Mother, is a manifestation of Kuan Yin. Matsu 媽祖, a goddess of the South Pacific, though Taoist in origin, has also become an expression of Kuan Yin consciousness. Or Ārya Tāra 多羅菩薩, a divine manifestation evolving from Avalokiteshvara.
A consecrated copy of the text is considered a powerful protection talisman. The dharani represents the spoken words of Kuan Yin as she recites the names of deities from many pantheons, including references to Shiva, Vishnu, and Indra. The Great Compassion Mantra is bestowed upon us by Kuan Yin so that we might overcome our suffering and—for those who seek it—achieve awakening.
Per Buddhist mythology, during a gathering of the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and gods on a remote mountain, Avalokiteshvara rose and requested permission to recite words to be transmitted to the people, so that the people could always commune and call to Avalokiteshvara through those utterances and be protected from karmic suffering.
I have a mantra, the Great Compassionate Heart dharana, and now wish to proclaim it, for comforting and pleasing all living beings; for healing all illness; for living beings to attain additional lifespan; for living beings to gain wealth; for extinguishing all evil karma and weighty sins; for keeping away from hindrance and disasters; for producing merits of pure Dharmas; for maturing all virtuous roots; for overcoming all fears; for fulfilling all good wishes. Please be merciful and allow me to speak.
The deities permitted it and Avalokiteshvara proceeded to recite the syllables of the Great Compassion Mantra dharani. Anyone who recites the dharani with sincere heart will call out to Avalokiteshvara and will be able to seek refuge from any danger, harm, pain, or suffering.
The dharani represents the spoken words of Kuan Yin as she recites the names of deities from many pantheons (including references to Shiva, Vishnu, Indra, among others). As the mythology goes, the Great Compassion Mantra is Kuan Yin’s gift to us, a Key that will gain us access to spiritual awakening, greater understanding, wisdom, Divine Sight, and the strengthening of divine senses (also referred to as the four clairs–clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, and claircognizance).
The following Chinese translation is the Amoghavajra version of the Great Compassion Mantra dharana, circa 774 AD. The Traditional Chinese text is printed right to left, top to bottom in vertical lines.
At the top of the left column on every page, the text is the romanized Sanskrit text of the Chinese transcription of the Sanskrit.
At the bottom, after the reconstructed Sanskrit text from the Bhagavaddharma, circa 660 AD. You’ll notice some discrepancies between the romanized Sanskrit text above it.
The Great Compassion Mantra
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Passages of the dharani are interpreted as referencing a nāga, or shape-shifting serpent, often depicted as female. In Mahayana Buddhist mythology, nāgas are often associated with the directional guardian of the West.
During a great storm, a nāga covered the Buddha’s head to give shelter while the Buddha was meditating. Buddha’s chief disciples are also referenced as nāgas. Awakening the kundalini is often associated with activating the inner nāga, expressed by the image of a coiled serpent.
Annotations from the Tang dynasty of the Amoghavajra version of the dharana notes as follows:
Avalokiteshvara [Kuan Yin] is the triple-headed divinity with a compassionate, serene face at the center, the face of a lion to the right, and the face of a boar to the left.
Upon the crown is an emanation of the Buddha Amitabha. Kuan Yin has four arms. The arms to the right hold a rod and a lotus; the arms to the left hold a wheel and a conch.
A mysterious black serpent is the sacred thread winding about the Bodhisattva.
Purifying Karmic Merit
Seekers on a Mahayana Buddhist path adopt dedicated, routine recitations of the Great Compassion Mantra dharani to purify their karmic merit. Purifying one’s karmic merit ensures that personal karma will never lead one to: die of starvation or deprivation; will not be imprisoned or physically brutalized or abused; will not die at the hands of hostile enemies; will not be killed in battle; will not be killed by wild beasts or natural disasters; will not be poisoned; will not drown or burn to death; will be protected from ill-intentioned sorcery or witchcraft; will not be inflicted by insanity; and will always find peace, prosperity, inner calm and contentment, and harmony.
Purifying personal karmic merit will also ensure the divine protection of gods, dragons, and benevolent spirits; prosperity; respectability; genuine allies and friends; a kind and harmonious family; a kind and harmonious personality; good health and wellbeing; birth and residence in a time, place, and government that brings peace and prosperity; the opportunity in every lifetime to awaken spiritually and to cultivate personal spirituality.
Peaceful Death and Transition to Afterlife
Recitations of the Great Compassion Mantra when one is on the deathbed or near the time of transition to the next life can ensure a peaceful, tranquil death, divine protection during that time of transition, and serve as karmic merit to ensure a soul’s auspicious rebirth.
Healing Waters of Kuan Yin
Pour clean drinking water into a consecrated cup. Light a stick of incense and recite the Great Compassion Mantra with the intention that the sounds are being infused into the drinking water.
The water is then considered blessed with the healing powers of Kuan Yin. Use to brew medicines for the sick, or just for everyday preventative spiritual medicine, made into teas. Of course, you can also just drink the consecrated water plain.
Personal Psychic or Spiritual Protection
An energetic barrier can be created around an individual through recitations of the dharani. Visualize each single recitation as applying one coat or one layer of shielding. Determine the strength of the psychic or spiritual protection barrier needed and proceed with a corresponding number of dharani repetitions.
Those who are more vulnerable, sensitive, or susceptible to attracting malefic energies may want to increase the number of daily recitations. Routine recitations of the Great Compassion Mantra integrated into a practitioner’s dedicated practice will naturally produce a personal psychic or spiritual shield around the practitioner.
The following passage is a brief description of how the dharani is used in exorcisms and not the full instruction of an exorcism ritual. Exorcisms should be performed by an experienced practitioner who can appreciate the intricacies of an exorcism.
Generally speaking, as reference only, the Great Compassion Mantra is used to exorcise demons possessing an individual or to exorcise a ghost or malefic spirit from a premise. Strong, steady root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras are needed.
The exorcist must also first be purified and adequately shielded. Recite the dharani as commandments, in a commanding, fearless, and even-keeled tone. Continual recitations of the dharani will go on for as long as it is needed and as determined by the exorcist.
Also, it should be noted that “exorcism” with the dharani may differ from Western or Judeo-Christian based conceptions of exorcism. Here, with the Great Compassion Mantra, the purpose is to purify the demon and rather than send the demon back to hell, the purpose is to bring a conceptual sense of salvation or comfort to the demon or ghost.
If you’d like to be able to follow along with folks way cooler than us singing the dharani while you read the text from the book, check out the below videos. You’re probably going to recite the dharani rather than sing it, but these are just too beautiful to not share.
I’m going to include a couple of different options for you to listen to. That’s because if you listen to all of them while reading along in the book, you’ll notice discrepancies in pronunciation for just a couple of the words. That’s just…life. I’m sure the way you and I pronounce certain words in English is totally different.
Below is the dharani recited/sung (somewhere in between the two) by male voices, is a bit more rhythmic than the previous female version. This one also features classical Chinese instrumental music in the background. If the previous female version is a good one to sleep or unwind to, then the subsequent male version is a good one to recite along with and for me, is keyed well to keeping me focused.
The next version below is co-ed. You get a chorus of male and female voices. It’s more upbeat than the previous versions, I think, and is a good companion for daytime meditation or early morning practices.
Yeah, yeah, I’m overloading you with options. However, I really do love all of these versions and I believe they’re going to help you get a sense for the pronunciation–and also a sense for the variations in pronunciation so that you don’t feel so self-deprecating or insecure about your own!
And this one below is just beautiful, but you’re not going to be able to follow along from the book I’ve provided because the below version is sung in Tibetan. Interestingly, if you follow along by reading the Siddam Sanskrit version in the book, there’s striking similarities.
I tried to find for you guys a publicly shared recording of the dharani in a tone and style I’m more used to in real life practice, but couldn’t find any. Basically, the most common way I’ve heard the recitation is monotone, what you’d stereotypically think of when I say “monks chanting,” and while calm and even-toned, is uttered with a certain unmistakable force behind each word. I think the versions I’ve shared here were intended to be more artistically rendered, so stylistically it’s a bit different from everyday dedicated practice.
Do you need to be Buddhist to reap benefits from this text? No.
Do you even need to be religious or buy in to religious doctrines? No.
Can you integrate the Great Compassion Mantra into your current practice and path, no matter what that practice and path looks like?
Well, this is going to depend more on your end than the Mantra itself (and whether your own path allows for syncretism and integration).
From the perspective of the Mantra, yes of course you can integrate it into any practice or path, though please preserve and honor the Mantra as sacred in the way its religious adherents honor it as sacred.
Sacred texts in Buddhism or Taoism should never be permitted to touch the ground, but listen to the spirit of this guideline rather than taking it too literally. The spirit of the guideline is to honor and respect the sanctity of the text. Sacred texts should be treated as, well, sacred, meaning that your perception of it is as something beyond the ordinary or mundane. I have many sacred texts from other religions, faiths that are not my own, and I treat those texts with the same respect and reverence I show the sacred texts that are from my own faith.
And I hope you’ll consider doing that here, too.
31 thoughts on “Great Compassion Mantra, 大悲咒 (Free Book Download)”
Ugh had the same issue again that I emailed you about yesterday – got a message from Lulu to contact their support team. Help! And thank you.
Nicole Foos (310)995-3729
What a lovely idea–and as per Buddhist concepts there really would be no need to consecrate it, since the speech of the Buddhas is considered the same as their bodies and minds and hence self-excellent and of a nature to itself consecrate the listener/reader. May all benefit!
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Thank you Benebell. I first encountered Kwan Yin in the Honolulu Museum on a field trip. I saw this incredible wood statue emanating peace. I did not know who she was, so when I worked up the courage to ask someone, I was told “That’s Kwan Yin”. She’s been in and out of my life since then, mostly when I need her. Like today, through your gorgeous post, she’s reminding me not to close my heart like I’m want to do when I feel hurt. Key word-feel.
Much love to you and all you do (and you do alot!).
(Not sure if I could edit) But, I wanted to say that I really love listening to the various videos of the dharani that you shared. Very uplifting and inspiring. I also ordered my copy of “Great Compassion Mantra” from Lulu.com. In about two weeks I will have my own copy! Thanks so much!
Thank you so much, once again, for your generosity. This is truly a gem and so beautiful.
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Thank you Benebell! I love it.
Thank you so much for your generosity, Benebell! You are certainly embodying Dana this month! My car has a little Kuan Yin on the dashboard and she helps me look out at traffic with compassion! I have been looking for ways to incorporate more devotions to her in my life, and I am excited to start a mantra practice.
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Thank you Benebell for the youtube series and for providing the great compassion mantra. Yesterday, i was thinking about reciting Kuan Yin mantras for my grandfather (he has cancer) so this is very handy! 🙂
Namaste , Ca n i recite great compassionate mantra without guro …can i revite this aline for myself ..or need a guidance ….jgreat compasionate manntra is for buddism only ?
Anyone at all can use the Great Compassion Mantra! It is not “for Buddhists only.” Not in any way whatsoever! ❤ You can use it in a secular manner for personal spiritual or emotional balancing, if it resonates with you. =)
Ugh. I am looking for a slowdown version I can follow to get the words down. I think you should do one recitation so we can hear properly. I can’t tell sometimes if letters are silent or not. I just need to hear it a time or two.
Hi Lisa: On YouTube there is a function where you can change the Speed settings that the video plays in. The default is set to normal, but you can play it faster or slower. Set the video speed of one of the mantra videos to 0.25x, 0.5x. or 0.75x and you’ll be able to hear it more clearly, I think. =)
This text and the resources you have added are wonderful. I was surprised to find that my attempts at pin pin were not to far off. Reminds me a bit of Tsalagi (Cherokee) language. Thank you for sharing this beautiful mantra.
That should have read “pin Yin.” So much for iPhones. 😉
I hope to add this mantra to my repertoire. I already know the 100 syllable mantra in Sanskrit by heart.
But mantras needn’t be long to be effective, I started out with ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ an oldie but goodie.
Thanks for the materials!
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As I prefer to recite the mantra in Sanskrit, I found another version of the mantra that suits me better. It was actually part of my course materials from the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) but I only now just realized it.
NAMO RATNA TRAYĀYA / NAMA ĀRYA JÑĀNA SĀGARA VAIROCHANA VYŪHA RĀJĀYA /
TATHĀGATĀYA / ARHATE / SAMYAKSAṂ BUDDHĀYA / NAMAḤ SARVA
TATHĀGATEBHYAḤ / ARHATBHYAḤ SAMYAKSAṂ BUDDHEBHYAḤ / NAMA ĀRYA
AVALOKITEŚHVARĀYA / BODHISATTVĀYA / MAHĀSATTVĀYA / MAHĀKĀRUṆIKĀYA /
TADYATHĀ / OṂ DHARA DHARA / DHIRI DHIRI / DHURU DHURU / IṬṬE VAṬṬE / CHALE
CHALE / PRACHALE PRACHALE / KUSUME / KUSUMA / VARE / ILI MILI / CHITI
There are a number of great videos on YouTube for this mantra, here is a playlist of my favorites:
I also found out there is an even longer version of the Great Compassion Mantra available from the FPMT, it is the Longest Chenrezig Mantra, the shortest being “Om Mani Padme Hum.” Here is a playlist of my favorites for the short mantra:
Interestingly enough, when I compare the Sanskrit in this text with the Longest Chenrezig Mantra the first couple lines or so matches word for word! But beyond that the text is almost unrecognizable, however there are Sanskrit words in it that are found only in the Longest Mantra that are not found in the Long Mantra (maybe they should rename it the middle-length mantra, lol!). Not to mention the fact that this text is substantially longer, if not just as long, as the Longest Mantra! I thought it might actually be an intermediary form of the mantra, but about all we can say for certain is that it is from another tradition (i.e. not Tibetan). Still, I would have liked to learn it if I could only find some recitations of this particular mantra, but perhaps it’s best I stick with the Tibetan for which I have the materials and the proper resources for learning it. One thing’s for sure, I need to create a single text to put all my mantras in one place. LOL!
I finally found some recitations that match the Sanskrit in this text (I just had to share!):
I also found some recitations and resource material for learning the original longer version of the mantra:
Thank you for this offering. I hope it spreads peace to all beings. I suspect more peace might be spread if you did not include the extremely poor Suzuki translation.The text he was working from was hopelessly corrupt in places and even where it wasn’t corrupt Suzuki often failed to apprehend the meaning or structure of the text. As well meaning as he was, propagating his wrong translation is doing a disservice to the Buddadharma.
jawbreaker3d, when you call the chant that you have quoted
NAMO RATNA TRAYĀYA / NAMA ĀRYA JÑĀNA SĀGARA VAIROCHANA VYŪHA RĀJĀYA …
“another version of the mantra” you are wrong. That is not the Great Compassion Mantra at all.
What you have quoted is the “Eleven-Faced Avalokitesvara Heart Dharani”. I see many sources online calling that the Great Compassion Mantra. I think one of the video links above calls it the Great Compassion Mantra but they are all wrong as it is not the Great Compassion Mantra but a seperate composition.
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The sanskrit is unfortunately mangled. I recommend the reconstruction by Lokesh Chandra at english Wikipedia.
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