The Śūraṅgama Sūtra, often spelled Shurangama Sutra or Surangama Sutra in English, is a Mahayana sutra and one of the main texts used in the Chán school in Chinese Buddhism. Śūraṅ means [of or belonging to] a Hero or a Brave person, Gama means [style of] steps or method [for making progress, for advancing].
The complete Chinese title is 大佛頂如來密因修證了義諸菩薩萬行首楞嚴經 (Da foding rulai miyin xiuzheng liaoyi zhupusa wanxing shoulengyan jing, Taisho no. 975), which may be translated as "The Summit of the Great Buddha, The Final Meaning of Verification though Cultivation of the Secret Cause of the Tathagata, and [Foremost] Shurangama of All Bodhisattvas' Ten Thousand Practices Sutra." It is also known in Traditional Chinese by shorter versions of the title such as 大佛頂首楞嚴經 (Da foding shoulengyan jing) or simply and more commonly 楞嚴經 (leng yan jing).
History and Translation
According to tradition, the Shurangama Sutra was translated in 705 by Śramaṇa Pāramiti from Central India and reviewed by Śramaṇa Meghashikara from Oḍḍiyāna. It was given certification by Śramaṇa Huai Di, and then polished and edited by Empress Wu Zetian's recently banished minister Fang Yong.
Relationship with the Shurangama Samadhi Sutra
The Shurangama Sutra should not be confused with Śūraṅgama Samādhi Sūtra, which means "Sutra of the Samadhi of the Heroic Progression", an entirely different Mahayana sutra. However, both sutras do feature the Shurangama Samadhi, which features importantly in a number of Mahayana sutras.
Its main themes are the worthlessness of the Dharma when unaccompanied by samadhi power, and the importance of moral precepts as a foundation for the Buddhist practice. Also stressed is the theme of how one effectively combats delusions that may arise during meditation.
Importance in Chán Buddhism
The Shurangama Sutra has been widely studied and commented on, especially in Chan Buddhism. In the Chinese language alone, there are at least 127 commentaries on the Shurangama Sutra. It was widely used by many Chan masters such as Changshui Zixuan from the Song Dynasty and Hanshan Deqing from the Ming Dynasty. It was also the only sutra that Ven. Master Bhikshu Hsu Yun wrote a commentary on.
Venerable Tripitaka Master Bhikshu Hsuan Hua, an important figure in Mahayana Buddhism, was one of the major proponents of the Shurangama Sutra, which he commented and used in his instructions on protecting and supporting the Proper Dharma. About the Shurangama Sutra, he said:
|“||In Buddhism all the sutras are very important, but the Shurangama Sutra is even more important. Wherever the Shurangama Sutra is, the Proper Dharma abides in the world. When the Shurangama Sutra is gone, that is a sign of the Dharma Ending Age. In the Extinction of the Dharma Sutra it says that in the Dharma Ending Age, the Shurangama Sutra will become extinct first. Then gradually the other Sutras will also become extinct. The Shurangama Sutra is the true body of the Buddha; the sarira (relics) of the Buddha; the stupa of the Buddha.||”|
Master Hsuan Hua lectured on the entire Shurangama Sutra in 1968 while he was in the United States. These lectures were recorded in an eight-part series of books containing the sutra and a traditionally rigorous form of commentary that addresses each passage. It was again lectured by the original translator monks and nuns of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas at Dharma Realm Buddhist University in the summer of 2003.
Shurangama Mantra or White Umbrella Dharani
In addition to the sutra's contents, the Siddham Sanskrit incantation (variously referred to as dharani or mantra) contained therein, known in Chinese as the "Lengyan Zhou" (楞嚴咒, "Shurangama Mantra"), is well-known and popularly chanted in East Asian Buddhism.
In Sanskrit, the dharani is known as the "Sitātapatroṣṇīṣa-dhāraṇī" (Chinese: 大白傘蓋陀羅尼; see nos. 944a/b, 976 and 977 in the Taisho Tripitaka). This is sometimes simplified in English to "White Canopy" "White Parasol" Dharani or more commonly in the Tibetan tradition the English is rendered as White Umbrella Mantra. The dharani is not only extant in the Chinese text, but also in Sanskrit and Tibetan versions as well.
- The Surangama Sutra- A New Translaton, 2009 by the Buddhist Text Translation Society
- Shurangama Sutra: Text, Commentaries, and Articles
- Shurangama Sutra translated by Upāsaka Lu K'uan Yu (Charles Luk), PDF file
- Sanskrit and Chinese versions of the Shurangama mantra