The Kannon Sutra

Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra is a popular devotional text in East Asian Buddhism. It is often referred to as the “Avalokiteśvara Sutra”, or Kannongyō (観音経) in Japanese. Despite the name, it is not a stand-alone text, but simply a famous chapter in the larger Lotus Sutra. This particular chapter is the main introduction to one of the most popular Bodhisattvas in Buddhism, Avalokitesvara. It describes attributes of Kannon that are familiar Buddhists, such as his vows to help all beings who call on him, his ability to take on various forms to teach people, and his unwavering compassion to lead all beings to Enlightenment.

So, the Sutra is popular among devotees of Kannon/Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, though in practice people often chant the verse section only. I was lucky to find a full copy of the sutra for chanting after visiting the famous Sensōji temple in Tokyo, though it’s very, very long. For now, I will post the verse section only, which is still pretty long, but often used in Japanese Buddhist chanting, such as the Tendai liturgy linked here.

A note on the characters. The prayer book I have uses the original, classical Chinese characters, but some characters are so old and obscure that they have modern simplified versions in common use now. For example 應 is replaced by 応. I wanted to keep the original characters, but some are too obscure and I can’t find them in my Japanese input program on my Mac, nor do other Japanese sites use them when posting the sutra. So, I decided to go with the modern equivalents like everyone else. Readability is more important, I think.

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. 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 work, and should not be taken too seriously.

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 Kannon Sutra, verse section

Introduction
(reads: The 25th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Universal Gate of Kanzeon Bodhisattva)
 
Myo ho ren ge kyo   kan ze on bo satsu
fu mon bon ge
Verse Section
 
Se son myo so gu   ga kon ju mon bi
 
bus- shi ga in nen   myo i kan ze on
 
gu soku myo so son   ge to mu jin ni
 
nyo cho kan on gyo   zen no sho ho jo
 
gu zei jin nyo kai   ryak- ko fu shi gi
 
ji ta sen noku butsu   hotsu dai sho jo gan
 
ga i nyo ryaku setsu   mon myo gyu ken shin
 
shin nen fu ku ka   no metsu sho u ku
使  
ke shi ko gai i   sui raku dai ka kyo
 
 
nen bi kan on riki   ka kyo hen jo ji
 
waku hyo ru go kai   ryu go sho ki nan
 
nen bi kan on riki   ha ro fu no motsu
 
waku zai shu mi bu   i nin sho sui da
 
nen bi kan on riki   nyo nichi ko ku ju
 
waku bi aku nin jiku   da raku kon go sen
 
nen bi kan on riki   fu no son ichi mo
 
waku ji on zoku nyo   kaku shu to ka gai
 
nen bi kan on riki   gen soku ki ji shin
 
waku so o nan ku   rin gyo yoku ju shu
 
 
nen bi kan on riki   do jin dan dan ne
 
waku ju kin ka sa   shu soku bi chu gai
 
nen bi kan on riki   shaku nen toku ge datsu
 
shu so sho doku yaku   sho yoku gai shin ja
 
nen bi kan on riki   gen jaku o hon nin
 
waku gu aku ra setsu   doku ryu sha ki to
 
nen bi kan on riki   ji shitsu bu kan gai
 
nyaku aku shu i nyo   ri ge so ka fu
 
nen bi kan on riki   jitsu so mu hen bo
 
gan ja gyu fuku katsu   ke doku en ka nen
 
 
nen bi kan on riki   jin sho ji e ko
 
un rai ku sei den   go baku ju dai u
 
nen bi kan on riki   o ji toku sho san
 
shu jo bi kon yaku   mu ryo ku hitsu shin
 
kan on myo chi riki   no ku se ken ku
  便
gu soku jin zu riki   so shu chi ho ben
 
jip- po sho koku do   mu setsu fu gen shin
 
shu shu sho aku shu   ji zoku ki chiku sho
 
sho ro byo shi ku   i zen shitsu ryo metsu
 
shin kan sho jo kan   ko dai chi e kan
 
 
hi kan gyu ji kan   ko dai chi e kan
 
mu ku sho jo ko   e nichi ha sho an
 
no buku sai fu ka   fu myo sho se ken
 
hi tai kai rai shin   ji i myo dai un
 
ju kan ro ho u   metsu jo bon no en
 
jo ju kyo kan jo   fu i gun jin chu
  退
nen bi kan on riki   shu on shitsu tai san
 
myo on kan ze on   bon on kai jo on
 
sho hi se ken on   ze ko shu jo nen
 
nen nen motsu sho gi   kan ze on jo sho
 
 
o ku no shi yaku   no i sa e go
 
gu is- sai ku doku   ji gen ji shu jo
 
fuku ju kai mu ryo   ze ko o cho rai
Closing
 
ni ji ji ji bo   sa soku ju za ki
 
zen byaku butsu gon se   son nyaku u shu sho
 
mon ze kan ze on   bo sa bon ji zai
 
shi go fu mon ji   gen jin zu riki sha
to chi ze nin ku   doku fu sho bus- setsu
 
ze fu mon bon ji   shu ju hachi man shi
 
sen shu jo kai hotsu   mu to do a noku
 
ta ra san myaku san   bo dai shin
End

Thanks!

Thanks to a blogger here, who provided a nice Chinese version of the sutra. This allowed me to find certain characters that aren’t in modern Japanese software on the Mac, but still exist in Chinese use, which in turn allowed saved me hours of time by copying and pasting the characters I needed. :)

Also I want to thank this website and this website, which both provided helpful references when I wanted to find a modern version of a Chinese character, and to get the proper liturgical format. :)

Great work, Annie!

Translation

This sutra is much too long to translate myself, but Burton Watson has provided an excellent translation of the verse section, which others posted here. The verse section is the large indented section near the end.

4 Responses to The Kannon Sutra

  1. johnl says:

    I am currently working on a copy of this, so I thought I would take a look. I bought a shakyo set at Sensoji–they are having a campaign to collect one million copies. It is just the verse part of chap 25. However, going directly to the verse section, for the title, they do not use the number, it says ‘Myoho renge kyo kanzeon bosatsu fu mon bon ge’ or 普門品…I can’t find the ‘ge’…maybe that’s why you left it out? It is not in Nelson. and it’s not in my Japanese dictionary, Kojirin.

    Well, that is the beauty of copying by hand. There are more than 600 kanji to write, I am currently about 1/3 of the way through. So here is a bump, maybe more people will take another look at the Lotus Sutra.
    Regards,
    JL

  2. Doug says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks a lot for the encouragement. The kanji for “ge” is 偈 I think. It’s found here:

    http://jisho.org/words?jap=%E5%81%88&eng=&dict=edict

    As for the title, you’re probably right in that’s how it’s done. Since the prayer book I bought shows the entire sutra, it actually lists the title that way (25th chapter, etc, etc), but for liturgical purposes, maybe that’s not right. I left it as-is though for now. Maybe I’ll correct it later once I know for sure. The Tendai link above does chant it the way you specified, so you’re probably right.

  3. Doug says:

    Yeah, what the heck. I fixed it. It says “偈” (ge), not the more extended version. That’s definitely more correct since this is the verse section only.

  4. jason says:

    does anyone have a pin-yin ver of the sutra? or know the origins of its existence? like, did the ancient tendai japanese just write it in chinese as that was their practice with early buddhism in japan(or something to that effect?)

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