The “Shurangama Sutra” is a Mahayana sutra that is especially crucial in Chan Buddhism, which is a school focusing in meditation. This sutra was brought by Sramana Paramiti from central India to China at 705CE.
Shurangama means ultimately firm, strong, and indestructible. This sutra is often represented as the true body, relic, and stupa of Shakyamuni Buddha. “Shurangama Sutra” is written as a dialogue between Buddha and Ananda, and the content is spoken in the view of a Buddha toward the truth of existent, the world and the universe. The key message in “Shurangama Sutra” is to reveal paths to return back to the “Original”. When the space of all ten quarters and all illusion are shuttered apart, the truth will be revealed.
The ten chapters of “Shurangama Sutra” explain with great details about Buddhism principles, moral discipline, essential Buddhist cosmology, development of Samadhi and different delusions during meditation.
The first fundamental teaching in “Shurangama Sutra” is that there are two types of mind. The first type is an ordinary mind, which is all the regular beings are aware of. Due to the illusory perceptions and random thoughts, this ordinary mind is the basis of death and rebirth. It has continued for the entirety of time without a beginning. This mind is dependent upon perceived objects, and this ordinary mind makes sentient beings mistaken this as their own nature.
The second type is the everlasting true mind, which is the real nature. This is also the state of a Buddha, enlightenment or pure essence of Nirvana. It does not have a beginning or an end. This everlasting mind is unmoving, all-pervading, the original understanding and the real nature of consciousness. All conditioned phenomena, arisen from the ordinary mind, make sentient beings lose their true mind and their fundamental understanding. Even though the true mind is active in every moment, sentient beings are unaware of it and continue to enter into wrong destinies after each death.
“Shurangama Sutra” also reveals that all objects that are seen, heard, smelt, tasted, felt in this physical world are actually an illusion. Yet, these illusory experiences are necessary and critical to help practitioners to find their true mind. This interesting dilemma is also the main theme in “Shurangama Sutra”. Buddhists need to practice Buddhism in order to bypass these illusions and identify the everlasting mind.
Another key concept introduced in “Shurangama Sutra” is Shurangama Samadhi. It is associated with complete enlightenment and the nature of the Buddhahood. Buddha shows Ananda how to turn the attention of his sense inward for achieving a deeply focused state of meditation known as Samadhi. By upholding purity of conducts (avoidance of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, intoxication) and developing right understanding of Dharma, Shurangama Samadhi can be achieved and meditator is awakened with an identical mindset as of all Buddhas.
“Shurangama Sutra” also contains a very important mantra, “Shurangama Mantra”. This mantra is considered to be the king of all mantras because it is the longest and is crucial for the flourish of Buddhism. Chanting this mantra keeps heaven and earth from coming to an end. However, when no one recites “Shurangama Mantra”, proper Dharma is no longer abided to the world. Buddhism and the world will be destroyed quickly.
“Shurangama Sutra” is fundamental in meditation because this sutra clearly explains the five Skandhas and the Fifty Skandha Maras. They are delusions or mental phenomena experienced by practitioners during meditation, and are deviations from the correct Samadhi. Each Skandha has countless Skandha Maras, and Shakyamuni Buddha only illustrates ten Skandha Maras associated with each of the five Skandha. Buddha describes the cause, the danger of misinterpreting, and the risk of attaching oneself to the phenomena. These fifty Skandha Maras are commonly known as the "Fifty Skandha Demons".
“Shurangama Sutra” is extremely important in Buddhism because as long as this sutra exists, the Proper Dharma continues to present in the world. Every Buddhist must uphold “Shurangama Sutra” and “Shurangama Mantra” for personal and everyone’s benefit.