The 10 Verse Kannon Sutra

This is the jukku kan on gyō (十 句 觀 音 經), or the “10 Phrase Kannon Sutra”, also called the “10 Verse Kannon Sutra”. It is a popular, devotional chant in Japanese Buddhism toward Kannon Bodhisattva. The liturgy is used in many sects of Japanese Buddhism, but the specific one I am posting here comes from the “Kannon Bodhisattva” prayer book I purchased at Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, Japan, a Tendai Buddhist temple. The verses are broken out exactly as printed in the prayer book and I’ve managed to print all the right kanji.

The origin of the text is not entirely known, though it’s speculated that this was composed by a Tendai Buddhist priest as a possible summary or condensed version of the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which is colloquially called the Kannon Sutra by devotees. The 25th chapter is a devotional expression toward Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Kanzeon Bosatsu), while this text could be used more readily in lay devotions.

The pronunciation of some characters varies just slightly from other online versions I’ve seen, but don’t despair. Many characters have multiple readings, so just use whichever version you’re familiar with. Because this text is so short, people sometimes chant it more than once in a single session, but the number is up to you. Choose what suits you. Feel free to print this out and use it on your own time. Enjoy!

Can’t read the characters?

If you’re having trouble reading the Kanji characters, you might have one or two problems with your computer:

  • Your computer may not have Asian fonts installed. In Windows you have to enable UTF8 and East Asian fonts under the Control Panel. Modern Mac computers are fully compatible already.
  • Your browser may be assuming the wrong character set. If you use a relatively modern browser and use UTF8 as character set, you should be able to read fine. IE, Firefox and Safari all read this fine as far as I can tell.

Even if not, then you can still use the romanized characters, and the (terrible) English translation. Also check out this excellent page for more information.

Disclaimer and Legal Info

I hereby release this into the public domain. Please use it as you see fit, but if you attribute it to this site, greatly appreciated. Also, please bear in mind this is an amateur translation, and should not be taken too seriously, nor is it of academic quality.

Dedication

I dedicate this effort to all sentient beings everywhere. May all beings be well, and may they all attain perfect peace.

Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu

The 10 Verse Kannon Sutra

Kan ze on
na mu butsu
yo butsu u in
yo butsu u en
bu – ppo so en
jo raku ga jo
cho nen Kan ze on
bo nen Kan ze on
nen nen ju shin ki
nen nen fu ri shin

My Translation

This translation of mine is far from perfect, but after consulting other translations as well as online Kanji dictionaries, I believe this is one way to read it in English. Big thanks to “E” for his excellent scholarship and assistance in this endeavor.

Kanzeon [Bodhisattva]!
Praise to the Buddha!
With the Buddha as cause,
With the Buddha as condition,
Through the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha
I attain eternal, blissful, self, purified of all defilements [nirvana].
In the morning, I recite “Kanzeon”.
In the evening, I recite “Kanzeon”.
Reciting and reciting arises from the awakened mind.
Reciting and reciting is not separate from [awakened] mind.

P.S. The “Buddha” here I believe is the eternal Buddha, the Dharmakaya, not the historical one. It’s basically a subtle allusion to Emptiness and interdepedency. Pretty clever for only 10 verses. ;)

12 thoughts on “The 10 Verse Kannon Sutra

  1. Hello Lukas,

    No, I can’t read Classical Chinese. I can only read Japanese a little. I saw your website, and I was surprised because we’re almost writing on the same subjects. :)

    Gassho

  2. very good effort. do never ever change any meaning for want of logic or clarity.good bless you.

  3. I was reading a Japanese book just recently in which someone chants magic formulae consisting of separate single kanji like this. I think I may have heard something like this when visiting Buddhist temples, but I wasn’t aware of what it was. This throws a little more light for my uneducated mind!

    I wanted to ask, can you recommend a safe chant to Kannon-sama for a non-Buddhist to use?

    Thank you for a wonderfully informative website!

  4. Hello,

    The Heart Sutra is a popular Buddhist chant throughout Buddhism, and is perfectly safe to use. Chanting in Buddhism usually comprises of reciting sutras (Buddhist scripture), not magic formulas (I presume you mean mantras?), and the function is less of a magic formula, and more of a way to spread the Buddhist teachings, and generating good merit for oneself and others. Mantras and such do exist in Buddhism, but they are a secondary tool, and usually are not supposed to be done without guidance from a teacher in good standing.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Oh please forgive me. I expressed myself unclearly and I fear have left a rather impious impression. I did not mean at all that either mantras or Buddhist chants are magic formulae. I certainly have never thought that to be the case.

    The book I was referring to was actually a children’s fantasy novel in Japanese. In that book there were actual (fictional) magical formulae that took the form of tracing and intoning separate successive kanji. I had never seen that kind of thing before, so I was interested to see something similar.

    I realize that a sutra is something sacred and not in any way to be compared with magical formulae. It was really just a question of seeing the same format of several kanji pronounced separately without okurigana and understanding where the general idea of the such a format may have come from.

    Nor am I really saying that the author borrowed the idea from Buddhism. For anything I know there may be all kinds of things of that very general nature (probably originally Chinese). It was just interesting to a rather silly and uninformed person to see.

    I should also say that I have no particular interest in actual magic formulae outside of fiction.

    Thank you very much for your kind advice, and please forgive any offense I may have caused by my over-enthusiastic and ill-expressed comment.

  6. I hope a second post does not seem shitsukoi. I am thinking that I may still have left an impression of associating the Sutra with irrelevant things. Really it was only a question of the format.

    As an analogy, imagine someone who was unaware of the concept of rhyme and first encounters it in a Western popular song. Later that person sees a Shakespeare Sonnet and says “Ah I see somehing of the greater cultural context from which this ‘rhyme’ phenomenon comes”.

    I am not suggesting that a Sutra is a cultural artefact like a Sonnet. Clearly it is something of a higher order. The analogy was merely to suggest the fact that I was really only comparing the format, not the content.

    And yes I was looking for something like a mantra, and was aware of the need for direct guidance in most cases, which was why I was asking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s