About Performing RecitationBuddhism Your Questions Answered (171 FAQ)

Q&A 71. Introduction to Buddhist sutras and mantras (1)

Q: Dear Master Lu, I have been reciting the Great Compassion Mantra, the Heart Sutra, and the Mantra to Untie Karmic Knots. If I start to recite Little Houses, do I need to keep reciting these sutras and mantras? Also, what should we be aware of when performing recitations?

A:

  • Daily recitation is the set of sutras and mantras that one must perform a certain number of recitations every day. For example, one may recite the Great Compassion Mantra 3 times, the Heart Sutra 3 times, the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance once, and the Cundi Dharani 21 times.
    Performing daily recitation is just as important as our daily food intake, and it is similar to earning an income to cover our daily expenses. Recitation of Little Houses, on the other hand, is like paying off your mortgage or other loans. The recitation of sutras and mantras for your daily recitation cannot be counted towards your Little House recitation. You also need to make separate prayers for your daily recitation and Little Houses. Likewise, the number of recitations of sutras and mantras for your daily recitation should be counted separately from that of Little Houses.
  • The full title of each sutra and mantra should be recited in each repetition, especially the Great Compassion Mantra and the Heart Sutra. For example, before reciting the Great Compassion Mantra, you should recite its full title: Qian Shou Qian Yan Wu Ai Da Bei Xin Tuo Luo Ni; for the Heart Sutra, you should recite its full title: Bo Ruo Bo Luo Mi Duo Xin Jing.
  • It is best to say the corresponding prayers or wishes before you begin your daily recitation. It is recommended that you make no more than three wishes, as making too many wishes would be an act of greed, thus affecting efficacy.
  • The Heart Sutra and the Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra can be recited until 10pm during good weather conditions. If it is cloudy or rainy, you can recite them during the daytime. However, you should avoid reciting them during extreme weather conditions, such as dark gloomy days, heavy rain, thunderstorms, or lightning. In addition, if you feel weak or uncomfortable when reciting these sutras and mantras, then you should recite them during the daytime on a sunny day. Generally speaking, avoid performing any recitations between 2am and 5am.
  • If you are performing daily recitation on behalf of family members, friends or fellow Buddhist practitioners, their full names must be announced before you begin reciting in order for the recitation to be effective.

For your reference, brief descriptions of the benefits of some sutras and mantras are listed below, as well as the recommended corresponding prayers.

  1. The Great Compassion Mantra (Qian Shou Qian Yan Wu Ai Da Bei Xin Tuo Luo Ni, or Da Bei ZhouTa Pei Chou for short) is one of the fundamental mantras for every Buddhist practitioner, and should be included in your daily recitation.
    Some of its functions include: fulfilling all the wishes of each sentient being; curing illnesses; and receiving protection and blessings from Dharma Protectors. By reciting this mantra several times every day, you will be able to choose to be reborn into any Buddha Land by the end of your life.
    For daily recitation: Generally, 3 or 7 times per day throughout one’s whole life; can be recited during the day or at night. During critical times such as before and after an operation, this mantra should be recited 21 or 49 times per day, the more the better.
    Prayer: Before reciting this mantra, you can say the following prayer: “May the Greatly Merciful and Greatly Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, grant me good health, and strengthen my spiritual power.” If you are suffering from an illness you can also add the following, “May the Greatly Merciful and Greatly Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva cure my illness in <part of your body>, and bless me with a speedy recovery.”
  2. The Heart Sutra (Bo Ruo Bo Luo Mi Duo Xin Jing, or Xin JingHsin Ching for short) is for establishing a connection with Guan Yin Bodhisattva, and obtaining wisdom through the compassion of Guan Yin Bodhisattva.
    This sutra takes the form of power in heaven, currency in the underworld, and wisdom in the human realm.
    Some of its functions include disciplining misbehaving children; influencing adults to have a religious belief e.g. Buddhism; making elders less stubborn; calming unstable moods and emotions; granting wisdom; and alleviating depression. It can also be used to help spirits in the underworld ascend to a higher spiritual realm.
    For daily recitation: Generally, at least 3 or 7 times per day throughout one’s whole life. The Heart Sutra can be recited until 10pm during good weather conditions. If it is cloudy or rainy, avoid reciting it after sunset. You should also avoid reciting the sutra during extreme weather conditions, including heavy rain, thunderstorms, or lightning.
    Prayer: Before reciting this sutra, you can say the following prayer: “May the Greatly Merciful and Greatly Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, grant me wisdom, calmness and a pure mind, and relieve me of afflictions (maintain focus while performing recitations).”
  3. The Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance (Li Fo Da Chan Hui Wen) is an important scripture that allows us to repent before Buddhas. By reciting it, we sincerely ask Guan Yin Bodhisattva to help us repent and eliminate karmic obstacles accumulated from our past and present lives.
    Some of its functions include repenting the karmic obstacles created in our past and present lives; seeking forgiveness from someone you have hurt in past relationships; resolving long-term karmic conflicts and karmic obstacles; and repenting inappropriate actions such as being disrespectful to Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or damaging statues or images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, etc.
    For daily recitation: Generally, 1 to 7 times per day, throughout one’s whole life.  Avoid reciting it from 10pm to 5am.
    Prayer: Before reciting this text, you can say the following prayer: “May the Greatly Merciful and Greatly Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, help me to repent and eliminate the karmic obstacles (in the body or a specific part of the body), grant me good health and wisdom."
    Note: While reciting the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance, if you feel soreness or discomfort in any part of your body, it means that the karmic obstacles have been activated and transformed into spirits. This is a good sign, as you can deal with the consequences now rather than later, and reduce the risk of their turning into a major illness later in life. Generally, you should recite 4 to 7 Little Houses or more until you feel better.  Those suffering from severe pain or illnesses should recite additional Little Houses until recovery.
    The above three sutras and mantras form the foundation of one’s daily recitation. The following sutras and mantras can be recited, depending on your needs, to resolve specific issues. Generally, they should be recited 21, 27 or 49 times per day.
  4. The Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra (Wang Sheng Jing Tu Shen Zhou, or Wang Sheng Zhou for short) is recited to pray to Guan Yin Bodhisattva to protect and bless us, grant us a peaceful and joyful life in this life, and allow us to be reborn into the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss in the future. It can also be recited to help those spirits of the animals that you may have killed in the past, including poultry, game, aquatic creatures, insects, etc. to ascend to a higher spiritual realm.
    If you had eaten freshly killed creatures before becoming a Buddhist and reciting the Buddhist scriptures, or if you have inadvertently harmed animals, including killing or hurting animals in your dreams, you should recite this mantra.
    Recite as necessary: Generally, 21, 27 or 49 times per day. The Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra can be recited until 10pm during good weather conditions. If it is cloudy or rainy, it is recommended that you recite it during the daytime. Avoid reciting the Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra after 10pm, or during extreme weather conditions, including heavy rain, thunderstorms, and lightning.
    Prayer: Before reciting this mantra, you can say the following prayer: “May the Greatly Merciful and Greatly Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, help the spirits of the deceased, whose death my actions caused, ascend to a higher spiritual realm, and help me to eliminate karmic obstacles.”
  5. The Mantra to Untie Karmic Knots (Jie Jie Zhou) is to sincerely ask assistance from Guan Yin Bodhisattva to help us resolve interpersonal karmic conflicts.
    Some of its functions include: clearing up misunderstandings in a relationship between couples, fostering harmony in marriage and family, resolving interpersonal conflicts at work, and eliminating karmic obstacles in previous lives.
    Recite as necessary: Generally, 21, 27 or 49 times per day; can be recited during the daytime or at night.
    Prayer: Before reciting this mantra, you can say the following prayer: “May the Greatly Merciful and Greatly Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, help me to resolve my negative karmic affinity with <the other party’s full name> (can be your relative, friend, or colleague’s name).”
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