What Attitude Should We Hold Toward Mantras?
Since Buddhist mantras embody the blessed power from Buddhas’and Bodhisattvas’compassionate vows, we should recite mantras wholeheartedly as though we were connected to the mind of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In this way, our mind doesn't differ from the Buddha's mind.
Understanding the Mindset for Reciting Mantras
In the Great Compassion Dharani Sutra, Maha-Brahma* once asked the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara to explain the characteristics of the Great Compassion Mantra, so that practitioners could understand the right mindset to hold toward mantras.
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva thus compassionately expounded the Ten Attitudes for holding the Great Compassion Mantra, and clearly pointed out the essentials of cultivating the mind: “ 1) It is equally merciful and compassionate; 2) It is impartial; 3) It is unconditioned; 4) It is unpolluted and unattached; 5) It observes emptiness; 6) It is respectful; 7) It is humble; 8) It is uncluttered; 9) It is not attached to self-centered points of view; and, finally, 10) it is the highest Bodhicitta. One should know that such attitudes are the characteristics of this Dharani, and one should practice accordingly.”
Practice According to the Ten Attitudes
All Buddhas tread a common path. Not only can the Ten Attitudes be applied to reciting the Great Compassion Mantra, but can also be used with other mantras to subdue afflictions and activate wisdom. The Ten Attitudes are:
1. Be greatly merciful and compassionate: Cultivate the attitudes of helping all sentient beings extinguish suffering, and giving them happiness.
2. Be impartial: Cultivate the attitude of helping all sentient beings equally, without discrimination.
3. Be unconditioned: Cultivate a straightforward, direct mindset, without contrivance or pretense
4. Be unpolluted and unattached: Cultivate a pure and liberated mind.
5. Observe Emptiness: Give rise to the wisdom capable of contemplating dependent origination and emptiness of self-nature.
6. Be respectful: Treat all sentient beings with the same respect granted to Buddhas.
7. Be humble: be modest and do not be arrogant.
8. Be uncluttered: Maintain a concentrated mind without scattered thoughts
9. Be unattached to self-centered points of view: Cut off the vexations of attachment and do not give rise to false views.
10. The highest Bodhicitta: Arouse the attitude to attain supreme Buddhahood.
If one could recite mantras using these Ten Attitudes, one would definitely develop mutual affinity with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
*Maha-Brahma, or Brahma is the leading deva in Form Realm. Its bodily actions are pure; it upholds precepts strictly, never steals, kills, engages in sexual misconduct, and lies etc. Its mind is pure and has no desire for sexuality.
50 Questions about Buddhist Dharanis and Mantras (咒語50問), Dharma Drum Publishing Corp.