In medieval Japanese Buddhism, you can find many interesting little innovations. One example is a popular liturgy called the jikku kan’on gyō (十句觀音經), or the “10 Verse Kannon Sutra”.
It is a popular, devotional chant in Japanese Buddhism toward Kannon Bodhisattva. You can find it in various Buddhist sects, Zen, Tendai, etc. My sutra book from Asakusa Temple (a.k.a. Sensoji) includes it since the temple’s deity is Kannon. The origin of the text is not entirely known, though it’s speculated that is was composed by a Tendai priest as a summation of the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra is sometimes chanted or recited in devotional services because it is dedicated entirely to Kannon Bodhisattva. However, it is challenging to recite due to its length, even if you recite the verse section only.
If this is really was formulated as a summary, a lay person could recite this with the same intention as reciting the full chapter, but this would be a lot easier for someone of humble background who maybe cannot read all the complex Chinese characters in the original, let alone someone who has to work the fields all day. It is also short enough to for someone to easily memorize and chant in its entirety.
It’s not technically a sutra in the sense that it does not purport to speak on behalf of the Buddha, but there are other examples in of sutras (such as the Platform Sutra in Zen) that fit this awkward category as well.
So, for those interested, I present the Ten Verse Kannon Sutra, with translation below:
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.
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.
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
|Japanese Text||Romanization||Кирилицею (in Cyrillic)|
|觀世音||Kan ze on||кан дзе он|
|南無佛||namu butsu||наму буцу|
|與佛有因||yo butsu u in||йо вуцу у ін|
|與佛有縁||yo butsu u en||йо вуцу у ен|
|佛法相縁||bup po so en||вуппо со ен|
|常樂我淨||jo raku ga jo||джьо раку ґа джьо|
|朝念觀世音||cho nen kan ze on||шьо нен кан дзе он|
|暮念觀世音||bo nen kan ze on||бо нен кан дзе он|
|念念從心起||nen nen ju shin ki||нен нен джю шін кі|
|念念不離心||nen nen fu ri shin||нен нен фу рі шін|
You can find examples of chanting of the Ten Verse Kannon Sutra on Youtube such as this one:
At its heart, the Ten Verse Kannon Sutra is both a praise of Kannon Bodhsattva, but also gratitude for the karmic bond between oneself and Kannon (explanation here, albeit different Buddhist deity).
This translation below is something I made a while back, and is far from perfect, but I believe this is one way to interpret it in English. Other translations is here and here. Big thanks to Reverend “E” for his excellent scholarship and assistance in this endeavor.
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.
Enjoy and happy reciting!
P.S. The “Buddha” here I believe is the eternal Buddha, the Dharmakaya, not the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni