Up to this point we have (1) taken refuge in the Triple Gem, (2) called upon the name of Kwan Seum Bosal, (3) recited Kwan Seum Bosal’s mantra for eliminating “karmic obstructions”, and (4) recited the mantra for achieving our “great aspiration” as Bodhisattvas. It’s a hard act to follow!
The fifth part of Kwan Seum Bosal chanting is one of the most popular mantras throughout Asia. It might at first seem like a long, difficult, and mysterious mantra, but reciting this mantra is part of everyday Buddhism as it is practiced by ordinary people in China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, and Tibet. It turns out that this mantra is an excellent way to connect with “traditional” Buddhism in both senses: (1) Buddhism as it has been practiced since ancient times, and (2) Buddhism as it is really practiced today by ordinary Buddhists around the world.
The short name of this mantra is just “The Mantra to Avert Disasters” (see below for more on the full title and it’s variants), and it is said to have been first taught by the Buddha himself.
Dharani Title: “Dharani Expounded by the Buddha to Avert Disasters and Bring Good Fortune” (佛說消災吉祥 陀羅尼)
佛 說 消 災 吉 祥 陀 羅 尼 (Hanja)
fú bul xiāo zāi jí xiáng tuó luó ní (pinyin)
불 설 소 재 길 상 다 라 니 (Hangul)
bul sol so jae gil sang da ra ni (transliteration)
Buddha speak eliminate disaster auspicious good-luck dharani (translation)
There are many, many alternative titles for this dharani. For one thing it is sometimes called a “dharani”, which in Chinese is always 陀羅尼, and sometimes called a “mantra”, which can be any one of: 咒, 呪, 眞言, or 真言. Another slew of variations comes from adding 神 (“divine”) in front of “mantra”. Also the two characters 吉祥 (auspicious good-fortune) are frequently either dropped altogether or replaced with 妙吉 (excellent good-fortune). Also, the first two characters, 佛說 (Buddha spoken), are more often left off than not. English speaking Buddhists following Japanese traditions usually give the title in transliterated form as Sho (消) Sai (災) Myo (妙) Kichijo (吉祥) Dharani (神呪), although, as indicated, when the Kanji are given one finds 神呪 (divine mantra) at the end and not 陀羅尼 (dharani).
But that’s just skimming the surface of the complexifications you can run into once you start going down the rabbit-hole of “what shall we call this mantra?” Vietnamese Buddhists seem to prefer a Sanskritized version of the title: śāntika-śrīya dhāraṇī. The Malaysian music-producer/recording-artist Imee Ooi, whose Sanskrit version of this mantra is extremely popular, calls it the “Maha Jvalosnisa Dharani”. The Tibetans call it “The Dhāraṇī of the Blazing Uṣṇīṣa” (Ārya Uṣṇīṣa Jvala nāma Dhāraṇī or in Tibetan: ཨཱརྱ་ཨུཥྞཱི་ཥ་ཛྭ་ལ་ནཱ་མ་དྷཱ་ར་ཎི།). Other titles in Chinese include 又名熾盛光大威德陀羅尼, 熾盛光佛頂真言, and 熾盛光大威德消災吉祥陀羅尼.
The Mantra Itself
Despite all the variability in the title, the actual mantra itself seems to be very consistent from the snow-capped Himalayas, to the Diamond Mountains of Korea, to the Mekong Delta (allowing for inevitable variations in how the syllables are pronounced). Going line by line, here are ten different renditions: (1) Chinese characters (CC), (2) Pinyin (PY), (3) Vietnamese (VN), (4) Sanskrit transliteration with diacritics (SD), (5) Korean Hangul (KH), (6) a transliteration based on the Korean pronunciation (KT), (7) a transliteration based on the Japanese pronunciation (JT), (8) the Sanskrit version used the the Tibetans (TT), (9) a phonetic transliteration based on the Tibetan pronunciation (TP), and, (10) finally, the Tibetan version in Tibetan script (TS):
(PY) nā mó sān mǎn duō。mǔ tuó nán。ā bō là dǐ。
(VN) Nẳng mồ tam mãn đa, mẫu đà nẩm. Á bát ra để,
(SD) Namaḥ samanta buddhānām aprati
(KH) 나무 사만다 못다남 아바라지
(KT) na-mu sa-man-da mot-ta-nam a-ba-ra-ji
(JT) no mo san man da moto nan oha ra chi
(TT) NAMAḤ SAMANTA BUDDHANĀṂ APRATI
(TP) NAMAḤ SAMANTA BUDDHANĀNG APRATI
(TS) །ན་མཿ ས་མནྟ་བུདྡྷ་ནཱཾ། ཨ་པྲ་ཏི
(PY) hè duō shě。suō láng nán。dá zhí tuō。
(VN) ạ đa xá ta nẳng nẩm. Ðát điệt tha.
(SD) hata śāsanānāṃ. Tadyathā
(KH) 하다사 사다남 다냐타
(KT) ha-da-sa sa-na-nam da-nya-ta
(JT) koto sha sono nan to ji to
(TT) HATA ŚĀSANĀNĀṂ
(TP) HATA SHĀSANĀNĀNG
(PY) ān。qié qié。qié xì。qié xì。hōng hōng。rù wā là。
(VN) Án, khê khê, khê hế, khê hế, hồng hồng, nhập phạ ra,
(SD) oṃ, khaḍ khaḍ, khā-hi, khā-hi, huṃ huṃ, jvāla
(KH) 옴 카카 카혜 카혜 훔훔 아바라
(KT) om ka-ka ka-hye ka-hye hum-hum a-ba-ra
(JT) en gya gya gya ki gya ki un nun shiu ra
(TT) OṂ KHA KHA KHĀHI KHĀHI HŪṂ HŪṂ JVALA
(TP) OM KHA KHA KHĀHI KHĀHI/ HŪNG HŪNG DZWALA
(TS) ཨོཾ་ཁ་ཁ། ཁཱ་ཧི་ཁཱ་ཧི། ཧཱུཾ་ཧཱུཾ།ཛྭ་ལ་
(PY) rù wā là。bō là rù wā là。bō là rù wā là。
(VN) nhập phạ ra, bát ra nhập phạ ra, bát ra nhập phạ ra
(SD) jvāla, pra-jvāla pra-jvāla,
(KH) 아바라 바라아바라 바라아바라
(KT) a-ba-ra ba-ra-a-ba-ra ba-ra-a-ba-ra
(JT) shiu ra hara shiu ra hara shiu ra
(TT) JVALA PRAJVALA PRAJVALA
(TP) DZWALA PRADZWALA PRADZWALA
(TS) ་ཛྭ་ལ། པྲ་ཛྭ་ལ་པྲ་ཛྭ་ལ།
(PY) dǐ sè chà。dǐ sè chà。sè zhì lǐ。sè zhì lǐ。suō pō zhà。suō pō zhà。
(VN) để sắc sá để sắc sá, sắc trí rị sắc trí rị, ta phấn tra, ta phấn tra
(SD) dhŗṣṭa dhŗṣṭa, stire stire, sphoṭa sphoṭa,
(KH) 지따 지따 지리 지리 빠다 빠다
(KT) ji-tta ji-tta ji-ri ji-ri bba-da bba-da
(JT) chisu sa chisu sa chisu ri chisu ri sowa ja sowa ja
(TT) TIṢṬHA TIṢṬHA PHAṬ PHAṬ SARVA DURANI MIDHIDU SVĀHĀ
(TP) TIZHṬHA TIZHṬHA P’AYṬ P’AYṬ SARBA DURANI MIDHIDU SWŌHĀ
(TS) ཏིཥྛ་ཏིཥྛ། ཕཊ་ཕཊ། སརྦ་དུ་ར་ནི་མི་དྷི་དུ་སྭཱཧཱ།
(PY) shàn dǐ jiā。shì lǐ yì。suō pó hē。
(VN) phiến để ca thất rị duệ, ta phạ ha.
(SD) śantika śrīye svāhā
(KH) 선지가 시리예 사바하
(KT) son-ji-ga shi-ri-e sa-ba-ha
(JT) sen chi gya shiri ei somo ko
(TT) ŚANTIṂ KURU SVĀHĀ
(TP) SHANTING KURU SWŌHĀ
Note that the Tibetan version provides us with the only instances of any significant (albeit very limited) divergences. First of all, at the end of the second line, the Tibetan version leaves out 怛侄他 (danyata / tadyathā). Then, in the second to last line, the Tibetans have dropped 瑟緻哩 瑟緻哩 (ji-ri ji-ri / stire stire), and then added at the end of the line: “SARVA DURANI MIDHIDU SVĀHĀ”. Also, the Tibetan version has “phaṭ” (Skt: “crack”) instead of “sphoṭa” (Skt: “burst”). The seed syllable “phaṭ” can be transcribed in Chinese as “發” (pinyin: fā), whereas all of the versions of the dharani that use Chinese characters have three characters in this spot: “娑癹吒” (pinyin: suōpōzhà), which the Koreans whittle down to just bba-da (빠다), while the Japanese maintain all three syllables: “sowa ja”.
Ten Small Mantras
The current series of blog posts (of which this is the fifth) is treating this mantra as one of five mantras that are part of the practice of Kwan Seum Bosal chanting in the Korean Buddhist tradition. In addition to these mantras (done in a particular order) there is also an opening section of the practice (taking refuge in the Three Jewels), and then the second section is the recitation of Kwan Seum Bosal’s name, which can also be viewed as a kind of mantra.
Buddhists in China and Vietnam often recite a series of 10 mantras, called collectively “Ten Small Mantras” (十小咒). In that practice, the “The Mantra for Dispersing Calamities and Bringing Auspicious Good Will” is the second mantra recited. The “Ten Small Mantras”, in turn, are part of a larger recitation practice that starts with the Shurangama Mantra and the Great Compassionate Dharani, followed by the Ten Small Mantras, and then ending with the Heart Sutra.
Three brief interpretations
At the most basic level, this is just a general purpose “protective”/”good-luck” mantra, although perhaps with a little extra kick. The first mantra in Kwan Seum Bosal chanting emphasized something essentially negative: the elimination (滅) of karmic obstructions (業障). The second mantra emphasized something essentially positive: accomplishing (成就) our aspirations (願). But now we a that mantra emphasizes both: averting disaster (消災) and auspicious good fortune (吉祥).
But there is a far more “cosmic” way of looking at this mantra. This mantra was originally taught by the Buddha to the Celestial Beings who oversee the movements of the planets and the stars. The Buddha taught them this mantra in order to help them to maintain the proper balance of cosmic/astrological forces determined by the positions of these heavenly bodies. When we chant this mantra we also participate in this effort to preserve universal harmony. As one modern Chinese Buddhist teacher (Dharma Master Heng Chih) has put it: “The greatest function of this mantra is to help preserve the balance among the constellations in the universe.”
Let’s look at one more way to understand this mantra. The Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn (who is primarily responsible for introducing the world outside of Korea to Kwan Seum Bosal chanting) said of this particular mantra: “For those with heavy karma this mantra will take away all good and bad, and all opposites, then cutting through this karma will become easy.” Another contemporary teacher (WeiChueh) has said something very similar about the same mantra: “Misfortune is derived from the mind and is extinguished by the mind. All so called misfortunes are sufferings from retribution caused by past negative karmas. When karmic obstacles are cleared, the mind is relieved and realizes blessings.” (link)
Sources / Resources
• All purported “translations” of this Dharani should be viewed with even more than the standard allotment of skepticism. You have been warned.
• D.T. Suzuki’s translation can be found here, in Chapter II (“Dharanis”) of his “Manual of Zen Buddhism”:
• Robert Aitken’s translation is available many places online – here’s one:
• Here’s one by Shindo Gensho (Richard Jones) that is more literal, and I think possibly influenced by the Tibetan version:
• This page has translations of all of the “Ten Small Mantras”, but it doesn’t tell us who the translator is:
• Traditional, solo, with moktak:
• Another traditional rendition solo with moktak, chanted by a nun:
• Similiar to the above, but with Sanskrit subtitles:
• This one has a brief introduction (in Korean). The mantra starts at 1m10s:
• Another one by a Korean Buddhist nun:
Some Japanese versions:
• My current favorite video of this Dharani with the Japanese pronunciation:
• Another really nice Japanese version (my second favorite):
• A longer more elaborate Japanese version with drumming:
• A rather gutteral Japanese rendering:
• A really excellent video that uses the Vietnamese version:
• Another Vietnamese one:
• This Vietnamese version has a nice tune and an upbeat rhythm and is not overproduced. It also has the Vietnamese words displayed clearly, and Sanskrit subtitles. I like it!
Chinese (Mandarin) videos:
• An excellent video that clearly displays the Chinese characters and the pinyin for the whole dharani all one page, and goes through the whole thing once, enunciating each syllable very clearly and relatively slowly:
• A kind of a light-jazzy version that I personally like (using the title 消災吉祥神咒):
• A schlocky chinese version:
• A less schlocky, kind of quirky version:
• The Imee Ooi treatment (this one is actually in Sanskrit):
• This one is actually pretty nice, once you get past the schlocktastically overproduced intro:
• A nice studio version by a professional Chinese singer named Lu Moni (陆墨妮, lùmònī):
• Another nice, if somewhat overproduced, version by the Chinese singer Chyi Yu (齊豫):
• This video has the Siddham script as well as the Chinese characters:
• Ten Small Mantras: