The Principle of Reciting the Holy Name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva

The practice is from Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra – called the Universal Door.  I used to do this practice, just following along in the temple, without realizing that it was an actual legitimate practice (because it’s so simple) coming from one of the Kings of Sutras.  I had thought that I was doing it just because that’s what temples do – never realizing that it was a form of Mindfulness practice.  So don’t look down upon the simplicity of the practice and fail to realize the depth that you can take this practice to.

Why is this chapter called the Universal Door? Because this practice is so easy, it can be done by anyone – so it is universal:

  • You don’t have to be intelligent enough to understand the Sutras and all the subtle, deep, profound meanings within them to practice this.
  • You don’t even even need to be able to read – so you can have never gone to school – so you can even be illiterate and still be able to practice this.

So you can teach practices like this to say your grandparents and other family members if they’re open to it.  You can even teach it to kids, like little toddlers, it’s so easy.

This Dharma Door is entered through via faith (as opposed to things like Sutra Study and Zen – which are Dharma Doors that are entered through via wisdom).  Though no matter the Dharma Door you choose, it needs to resonate with you and so, you should get good results with it when you practice it – the key word is to practice.

This particular practice is designed to draw in the greatest amount of people that it can save. It is so simple that the least educated amongst us can practice it and it is so profound that the most intelligent of us can not exhaust it.

And when you can figure out how to use this practice as a key, it can help open the door to liberation. Therefore it is called the Universal Door.

This practice is done in Chinese Mahayana temples all around the world and has been practiced this way for hundreds of years by Asian Buddhists. However, it is not too well known in western Buddhism as of yet.

How easy is it?

All you need to do is to recite:

Namo Gwan Shi Yin Pu Sa

Which means Homage to the Enlightened One named Contemplator of the World’s Sounds. It means taking refuge in the Enlightened One who hears the cries of the world.

Who is this Bodhisattva?

He is the Bodhisattva of Compassion because in the Shurangama Sutra, he says that his compassion is equal to the Buddhas. He is usually depicted as a female (because we usually think females are more compassion, nurturing and motherly) in white robes with a willow branch in 1 hand and pouring sweet dew from a thin bottle with the other hand.

You’ll also see him in pictures with Amitabha Buddha in the centre and Gwan Yin Bodhisattva on 1 side and Great Strength Bodhisatta on the other side.  Together, they are called the 3 Sages of the West (meaning the Western land of Ultimate Bliss created by Amitabha Buddha, i.e., the Pure Land that is mentioned in Pure Land Buddhism).

The key is to use recitation of this Bodhisattva’s name as a mantra and use that to take your mind to a peaceful state – called samadhi/stillness.

In the same way that Theravadans use the mantra Buddho to help concentrate their mind, Mahayana Buddhist use the names of the great Buddhas and Bodhisattvas like Amitabha Buddha and Gwan Yin Bodhisattva to help them concentrate their minds.

When reciting, don’t expect to get anything. Have the attitude of nowhere to go, nothing to do. Just recite. Don’t expect to get peace, don’t expect to get samadhi. Just recite. Don’t have any goals – just recite. The proof is in the pudding and you’ll only understand the benefits of this practice once you recite to the point where you have some skill – this could take several months, maybe a year, maybe 3 years or more.

Don’t recite too loud – as this wastes your energy. You want it to be sustainable until your mind concentrates itself.

If you’re in a crowded place, or in a dirty place like a toilet, or lying down (where it’s considered disrespectful to recite aloud) you can recite silently in your mind – it is just as effective.

And if you don’t want to focus too hard, you can just play chants like this in the background and it will help your mind become concentrated and focused on the task at hand more naturally.

The principle is to program your mind so that in times of need, you can call upon 1 practice to help you and guide you along. In this case, you are requesting the help of a great Bodhisattva to help you. For example, if you’re sensing trouble or you or a family member is ill, automatically, without needing to think, the “Namo Gwan Shi Yin Pu Sa” recitation pops up in your head to help you get more focused and request the help of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

So just press play above and recite along. And this is a practice that you can take with you anywhere for the rest of your life.

Happy reciting!

PS:  For those you who want to read the whole Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra upon which this practice is based and get a better idea of the particular things that you can use this practice for, you can read it here:


7 thoughts on “The Principle of Reciting the Holy Name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva

  1. Excellent Post, reciting the mantra Namo Gwan Shi Yin Pu Sa is a extremely meritorious and suitable dharma door, as you say.

    Also, For who are not aware, in the Earth Store Sutra, the Buddha said:

    “The Buddha replied to Contemplator of the World’s Sounds Bodhisattva, “You have deep affinities with the Saha world. If gods, dragons, men, women, spirits, ghosts, or any other beings who are suffering for offenses within the Six Paths hear your name, see your image, behold you, or praise you, they will definitely become irreversible on the Unsurpassed Way. They will always be born among people and gods and there experience wonderful bliss. When the effects of their causes come to fruition, they will encounter Buddhas who will give them predictions. You are now replete with great compassion and pity for beings, including gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division. Listen as I discuss events involving the inconceivable benefits bestowed by Earth Store Bodhisattva. Listen attentively. I will discuss it for you.”

    Note: Contemplator of the World’s Sound Bodhisattva is the direct English translation of Namo Gwan Shi Yin Pu Sa

    Hence, if you feel affinity with Guan Yin Bodhisattva, you should waste no time in starting to sincerely and mindfully upholding and reciting his name. Furthermore, if you find yourself in a fearful or dangerous situation, you should also sincerely recite this mantra as it will extricate you from any pending disasters or current danger.

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  2. In today’s dharma talk, ven. Ekayana says this is excellent for beginners. He made reference to Guan Zhi zai recollection as well. These are words from the heart sutra.

    • Yes, this method is excellent for both beginners and advanced students. People can recite Gwan Yin’s name all day if they like, whenever they’re not engaging in intellectually stimulating activities or dangerous things like driving or operating machinery.

      For those who don’t know, Guan Zhi Zai is another name for Gwan Yin. Zhi Zai just means ease and comfort.

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