In Sanskrit, the word Mantra means “Mind protector”. Our minds are often burdened by anxiety and stress. Regularly chanting a mantra can protect our minds by giving it something positive to focus on. In Hinduism and Buddhism, mantras are often used as tools for meditation and health.
WHAT IS THE CUNDI MANTRA?
The Maha Cundi Dharani Sutra, a Mahayana Buddhist scripture, states that out of great compassion for sentient beings, the Buddha revealed the mantra:
The Maha Cundi Dharani Sutra promises many seemingly fantastic benefits for those who piously recite the Cundi mantra. For example, the home of those who chant the mantra 800,000 times will not be ravaged by catastrophes or diseases. Their work will be smooth and harmonious, and others will believe and accept what they say. The sutra can read like a book of magical rituals. But rather than dismissing it as a superstitious text, the modern reader can take a historical view of the Sutra and measure it with the spiritual truths embedded in its words.
CUNDI: A HISTORICAL THEORY
The cult of Cundi probably originated from Mahayana Buddhism's absorption of some elements of Indian religion in which the Mahayanists accepted the goddess Chandi as a bodhisattva (just as many Chinese deities were eventually absorbed into the pantheon of Chinese Buddhism and declared by Chinese Buddhists to be "Dharma protectors"). Perhaps the original intended audience of the Maha Cundi Dharani Sutra were devotees of Chandi who believed in the efficacy of magic spells and as an upaya, a text that would appeal to them and encoded with Buddhist teachings was composed. The Dharma is infinitely accommodating and can be expressed in different ways to people of different levels and perceptions.
CUNDI: A SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE
Cundi can be seen as a personification of the Enlightened Mind of Compassionate Wisdom. Her devotees revere her as "The Mother of Seven Million Buddhas". This is perhaps a poetic way of saying that the Reality which Cundi represents is the Source of All Enlightenment. Each one of Cundi's eighteen arms represent a particular quality of enlightenment such as the unflagging zeal to save sentient beings and perfect knowledge of the past, present and future. Each one of her hands are either forming a mudra or holding an instrument symbolizing an activity characteristic of an enlightened being. For example in one of her arms, Cundi holds an axe which signifies the elimination of evil. Another of Cundi's arms form the Abhaya Mudrā which signifies the bestowing fearlessness to her devotees. Details of Cundi's iconography can be found here.
Cundi is immensely popular in East Asian Buddhism. The Chinese call her Zhunti (准提) while the Japanese address her as Juntei. She recognized as one of the many forms of Guan Yin – the Bodhisattva of Compassion. A Bodhisattva is anyone who vows to cultivate Wisdom and Compassion to save sentient beings from suffering. Chanting the Cundi Mantra is extremely potent in helping us connect with Guan Yin and can bring us closer to her Mind of Compassionate Wisdom. There is no restriction for chanting the Cundi Mantra. There is no need for any special empowerment or ceremony, even though elaborate liturgies and practices have been composed by Cundi devotees. Anyone can chant it anywhere. You do not even have to be a Buddhist because Guan Yin’s mercy is open to all sentient beings without exception.
May you practice the Cundi Mantra and may you draw closer to the Mind of Guan Yin.