Reciting Mahāyāna Mantras in Sanskrit
Mantras pronounced by Buddhas or Bodhisattvas are included in some sūtras, ceremonial practices, and mantra-only texts in the Chinese Canon. In the ancient past, Buddhist masters translated these mantras into Chinese by sound, based on pronunciations of the Chinese words of their time and place. Different translators of the same mantra chose their own words. Now, modern scholars have painstakingly restored some of the mantras in the Buddhist Canon from Chinese back into Sanskrit. However, there are cases in which Sanskrit words are constructed, rather than restored, from Chinese pronunciations. Understandably, there is no guarantee of the absolute accuracy in the restored version of a mantra. Still, one should be confident that any version recited sincerely can be just as efficacious and powerful as another because a mantra is in tune with one’s own Buddha mind. This is testified by Buddhists worldwide, who have been reciting mantras translated phonetically into their native languages from Sanskrit or another language. It is admirable that Western Buddhists, following their Eastern teachers, unflinchingly recite mantras in romanized Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Vietnamese, and so forth. This means that anyone who knows the English alphabet can learn to recite Buddhist mantras in romanized Sanskrit, thus uniting all in one universal tongue.
Although one can read or recite a sūtra or a mantra aloud, in a whisper, or silently, voicing it aloud has a distinct advantage: not only does it involve all the sense organs, thereby purifying one’s body, voice, and mind, but it may benefit an uninvited audience visible or invisible to the human eye, planting a bodhi seed in their minds. For those who are inspired to recite a mantra in Sanskrit, the romanized Sanskrit alphabet and a guideline for pronunciation are provided. The Devanāgarī letters of Sanskrit are not given because the Sanskrit pages on this website are intended to help one recite a mantra in virtual Sanskrit, not to teach anyone to read or write Devanāgarī.