The Nilakantha Dharani or Maha Karuna Dharani, popularly known as the Great Compassion Mantra in English, is a dharaṇi of Mahayana Buddhist origin.
This dharani cites 84 of the manifestations that Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara will take to help people along the spiritual way. The sutra that this dharani points to, narrates a discourse between Buddhas and the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva wherein one learns that He brings salvation from all sins, even those that were previously believed to be venial sins.
He is a Bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. According to Mahayana doctrine, Avalokitesvara is the Bodhisattva who has made a great vow to listen to the prayers of all sentient beings in times of difficulty and to delay his own Buddha-hood until he has assisted every being on Earth in achieving nirvana.
The Karmapa is considered by the Karma Kagyu sect (one of the 4 major schools of Tibetan Buddhism) to be Chenrezig’s primary manifestation. The Dalai Lama is considered by the Gelugpa sect and many other Tibetan Buddhists to be the principal earthly manifestation of Chenrezig. It is said that Guru Padmasambhava prophesied that Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara will manifest himself in the Tulku lineages of the Dalai Lamas and the Karmapas.
Maha karuna signifies great compassion, loving-kindness or sympathy, also refers to gratification and equanimity. According to the Sutra, if we chant successively with utmost sincerity and vow to meditate and practice, it will help us to relieve from all of our miseries, unintentionally it will give us enjoyment and happiness.
Nilakantha Dharani (Maha Karuna Dharani) lyrics in romanized Sanskrit:
„Namo Ratna Trayāya Namaḥ Ārya Jñāna Sāgara Vairocana Vyūha Rājāya Tathāgatāya Arhate Samyak Sambuddhaya Namah Sarva Tathagatebyah Arhatebhyaḥ Samyaksaṃbuddhe Byaḥ Namaḥ Arya Avalokite Śvarāya Boddhisattvāya Mahāsattvāya Mahākāruṇikāya Tadyathā Oṃ Dhara Dhara Dhiri Dhiri Dhuru Dhuru Ite Vatte Cale Cale Pra Cale Pra Cale Kusume Kusume Vare Ili Mili Citijvala māpanāye Svāhā.”