Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Great Compassion Mantra: a Different Beat

While exploring the Chinese buddoblogosphere, I chanced upon a rock-and-roll version of a Chinese Buddhist song that we have grown familiar to. It's the Great Compassion Mantra, usually recited in Sanskrit learned by reading phonetically the equivalent Chinese words. Since Chinese words are mono-syllabic, this seems like an expeditious way of reciting Buddhist mantras in Sanskrit.

According to Wikipedia, the Great Compassion Mantrais a popular mantra syonymous with Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara [aka Guan Yin among Chinese Buddhists] in East Asia. It is often used for protection or purification".

That some musically inclined Buddhist practitioners would eventually tag a melody/tune to the Great Compassion Mantra is perhaps not surprising at all. And this Buddhist song, sung to a slow beat befitting the solemn content of the mantra, permeates our home everyday.

Then along came this rock and roll version, the rhythmic drum beat lending a diametrically different rendition. Its fast pace runs counter to calmness, equanimity, serenity, all the tranquil states of mind that we actively seek.
Listening to the song, it's hard not to be led into tapping the fingers along, or shaking the feet in unison. To a serious Buddhist practitioner schooled in the traditional way of strict observance of protocol and decorum, the song would likely invite reproach, or engender the shaking of the head in disapproval at best.

Personally, I enjoy this R&R styled Great Compassion Mantra of a Chinese Buddhist song. There's nothing intrinsically wrong in adding some levity to our life. But I'm certainly mindful of the where and the when this version of the Chinese Buddhist song (actually sung in Sanskrit) is to be aired. One example is when I'm alone in the car, driving to work, the beat seemingly encapsulating my existence right at that moment. Just like what I did today, and shall be doing it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next ...

If your interest is sufficiently piqued, try it out here (DBZFY01). Thanks to the producers of the song, whoever you are.

1 comment:

I Ching said...

I will check that out...thanks for posting that.

By the way, are you aware of any versions of the Great Compassion Mantra in the transliterated Sanskrit played using natural instruments? I have a version I picked up in Taiwan that I play every day as well but I would like to find one without synthesizers...