Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Buddha Prayer Song translated

บทสวดมนต์ สรภัญญะ
A chant to the Triple Gem in the Sarapannya Style - The “Buddha Prayer Song


Every day at Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand this song is chanted in three sections to give praise to the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, respectively.  It is sung in the Sarapannya style[1]. The title of this chant is abbreviated as: บทสวดมนต์ สรภัญญะ and referred to as the “Buddha Prayer Song”.  The chant is broadcast through DMC, the Dhamma Media Channel, as a panoramic video together with phonetic subtitles.  It is widely available, for example through YouTube: 

Quite a few people have asked about a translation of the chant into English, but so far none appears to have been made available online.  So we present here one attempt at a translation, seeking mainly just to gain a sense of the meaning, without undertaking the still greater challenge of rendering it as poetry.   The translation was carried out by Paul Trafford assisted by Wilaiporn Sucharittammakul and Mananya Pattamasoontorn, who provided much of the background information.  This is not an official translation and none of us are professional translators, so we apologise in advance for any errors and welcome suggestions for improvement. 

About the Song and the Translation

The song is an example of prosody, a stylised rhythmic song[2] whose form was popularised during the reign of King Rama IV[3]. This particular Sarapannya was composed by Phraya Sri Soontorn Voharn (Noi Ajariyangkol)[4] , who was assigned by King Rama V to provide instruction to the Crown Prince[5], the future King Rama VI.  His influence is particularly significant as the succeeding king’s own distinguished literary contributions earned him the title, Phra Maha Theraraj, indicating that he was a king of writing.

The poetic verse form presents particular challenges for the translator: some of the vocabulary is distinct from prose and/or the meanings of words in this context may sometimes be unique to this form.  Also in order to satisfy certain metrical constraints, words are occasionally abbreviated or hyphenated.  In terms of language, especially because of the royal connections, quite a lot of the vocabulary derives from Pali and in some cases Thai alternatives are direct replacements for the Pali.

The structure of the chant is regular, being presented in three parts:
  1. บทสวดสรรเสริญพระพุทธคุณทำนองสรภัญญะ
    A chant to give praise to the virtues of the Buddha, sung in the Sarapannya Style
  2. บทสวดสรรเสริญพระธรรมคุณทำนองสรภัญญะ
    A chant to give praise to the virtues of the Dhamma, sung in the Sarapannya Style
  3. บทสวดสรรเสริญพระสังฆคุณทำนองสรภัญญะ
    A chant to give praise to the virtues of the Sangha, sung in the Sarapannya Style
The composition of the poetry in each of its sections is exceedingly refined.  For example, the section on the Buddha is oriented around three 3 qualities: พระบริสุทธิคุณ (purity), พระมหากรุณาธิคุณ (compassion) and พระปัญญาธิคุณ (wisdom).   To do justice to the beauty of the poetry would need any translation to be similarly artfully composed.

The following tools and services were used to assist in the translation:
Just one further note about the Thai: there are in fact slight variations in spelling found in modern publications of the song.  Ideally we should locate the original.  Here we have drawn on the Thai provided both at the YouTube site and also a Dhamma forum[7]; where discrepancies have arisen a version has been chosen after considering the context and in consultation with a Thai dictionary as provided by LongDo.

We now present the verse line by line with the Thai followed by its Roman phonetics and underneath the translation into English.

(1. Buddha:  บทสวดสรรเสริญพระพุทธคุณทำนองสรภัญญะ )
Ong dai Phra Sambuddh
To The Fully Enlightened Buddhas[8]

องค์ใดพระสัมพุทธ สุวิสุทธสันดาน
Ong dai Phra Sambuddh     Suvisudha sandarn  
To the fully Enlightened Buddhas who are surpassingly pure in nature,

ตัดมูลเกลศ[9]มาร บ[10] มิหม่นมิหมองมัว
Tat moon galet samarn     bor mi mon mi mong mua
Who have cut the roots of defilements and are not sorrowful, not dark and gloomy.

หนึ่งในพระทัยท่าน ก็เบิกบานคือดอกบัว
Neung nai phra tai tan     ko berk baan keu dok bua
In their hearts alone do they find joy, like lotuses

ราคี บ พันพัว สุวคนธกำจร
Ragee bor pan pua     suvan kon ta kamjorn
with which flaws can't get engaged, dispersing blossom.[11]

องค์ใดประกอบด้วย พระกรุณาดังสาคร

Ong dai prakorb duay     phra karuna dang sakorn
All these beings who embody compassion as great as the ocean

โปรดหมู่ประชากร มละโอฆกันดาร
Broat moo prachakorn    Ma la oaka gandarn
Who beseech that the world’s[12] population abandons the round of rebirth.

ชี้ทางบรรเทาทุกข์ และชี้สุขเกษมสานต์[13]
Chee tang bantao dukkh     lae chee suk kasem sarn
Who show the way to the release from dukkha, and [show] how to be happy and peaceful.

ชี้ทางพระนฤพาน อันพ้นโศกวิโยคภัย
Chee tang phra naruparn     an pon soak viyok pai
Who show the way to nibbāna[14] that passes beyond sadness, estrangement and danger.

พร้อมเบญจพิธจัก- ษุจรัสวิมลใส
Prom benjapita jak-su jarat vimon sai
Complete with the five eyes[15] brilliant, pure and clear,

เห็นเหตุที่ใกล้ไกล ก็เจนจบประจักษ์จริง
Hen hate tee klay klai     ko jane jop prajak jing
They see the root factors whether near or far – they see them all as they really are.

กำจัดน้ำใจหยาบ สันดานบาปทั้งชายหญิง
Kamjat nam jai yarp     sandarn barp tang chai ying
They have eradicated the coarseness of the heart, every sinful nature of men and women.

สัตว์โลกได้พึ่งพิง มละบาปบำเพ็ญบุญ
Sat loak dai peung ping     mala barp bampen boon
On whom all living creatures must rely and live abandoning sin and making merit.

ข้าขอประณตน้อม ศิระเกล้าบังคมคุณ
Ka kor pranot norm     sira klao[16] bangkom Kuhn
I humbly request that I may bow to pay respects forever, paying homage with the top of my head to Thee –

สัมพุทธการุญ- ญภาพนั้นนิรันดร
Sambuddh karun- ya parp nan nirandorn
O Fully-Enlightened Buddhas of compassion.

(2. Dhamma: บทสวดสรรเสริญพระธรรมคุณทำนองสรภัญญะ)

(นำ) ธรรมะคือคุณากร (รับพร้อมกัน) ส่วนชอบ[17]สาทร[18]
Dhamma keu kunakorn[19]     suan chorp satorn
Dhamma is the heart of goodness, that which most upholds the Buddha’s teaching


Dut ja duang prateep chachawarn  
Just like the brilliant lamp

แห่งองค์พระศาสดาจารย์ ส่องสัตว์สันดาน

Haeng ong pra sas-sa-da-jan     song sat sandarn
of the Buddha, the noble teacher, illuminates the nature of creatures,

Sawang krajang jai mon
bright and clearing the mind of impurities,

ธรรมใดนับโดยมรรคผล เป็นแปดพึงยล 
Dhamm dai nap doi mag phol    ben baet peung yon
the Dhamma should be regarded as [amounting to] the means of the eightfold path and fruit,

Lae kao kap tang naruparn
and of the ninth across all nibbāna,

สมญาโลกอุดรพิสดาร อันลึกโอฬาร 
Som ya loak udorn pisadarn    an leuk oh-larn
[the Dhamma] which knows most accurately the supramundane world – comprehensive, profound, and vast –

Pisuth piset suk sai 
is pure, extraordinary, and radiant.

อีกธรรมต้นทางครรไล[20] นามขนานขานไข
Eek dhamm ton tang kan lai     nam kanarn kan kai
This same Dhamma is the start of the way to shedding the old,
which has the twin title of revealing[21]  

Patipat pariyat ben song
the twofold practice and doctrine,

คือทางดำเนินดุจครอง ให้ล่วงลุปอง 
Keu tang damnern dut ja krong    hai luang lu bong
and this twofold way is the path of Enlightenment[22]

Yang loak udorn doi drong
leading right through to the supramundane world.

ข้า[24]ขอโอนอ่อนอุตมงค์ นบ[25]ธรรมจำนง 
Ka kor oan orn uttamong[26]  nop dhamm jamnong
I humbly give my assent and wish to pay respects to the Dhamma
with top of my head[27]

ด้วยจิตและกายวาจาฯ (กราบ)
Doi jit lae kai vaja
and also in my mind, body and speech.

(3. Sangha บทสวดสรรเสริญพระสังฆคุณทำนองสรภัญญะ)

สงฆ์ใดสาวกศาสดา   รับปฏิบัติมา
Song dai savok sasada      rap patipat ma
To any Sangha disciples who have accepted and undertaken practice  

Tae ong[28] somdej bhagavan
solely with the Lord Buddha as Teacher

เห็นแจ้ง จตุสัจ[29]เสร็จบรร[30]- ลุทางที่อัน
Hen jaeng jatusat set ban-lu tang tee an
who are fully Enlightened in the Four Noble Truths, having attained the path in each stage -

Rangap lae dap dukkh pai
the path that restrains and extinguishes whatever risks suffering.

โดยเสด็จพระผู้ตรัสไตร ปัญญาผ่องใส
Doy sadet phra poo trat trai    panya pong sai
Who nobly follow the threefold illuminating wisdom of the Buddha.[31]

Sa-art lae prart mua mong
Who are clean and absorbed in getting rid of sadness.

เหินห่างทางข้าศึกปอง บ มิลำพอง
Hern hang tang ka seuk bong  bor mi lam pong
Who seek to go far away from the path of the enemy; they conduct themselves without false pride[32]

Duay kai lae vaja jai
in body, speech and mind.

เป็นเนื้อนาบุญอันไพ- ศาลแด่โลกัย
Ben nuea nah boon an pai-sarn dae lokai
Who are at the heart of a vast field of merit for the world.

Lae kert piboom poon pon
And that abundant merit grows and heaps up good fruit.

สมญาเอารส[34]ทศพล มีคุณอนนต์
Som ya ow rot tossapon   mee khun anon
They are the ones designated as children of the Buddha – they are anointed with virtue,

Anek ja nap leua tra
so many, they cannot be counted.

ข้าขอนบหมู่พระศรา- พกทรงคุณา-
Ka kor nop moo phra sara-pok song kuna-
I humbly bow and pay respects to the Sangha

nukhun pradut ja lam pan
whose every virtue is greater than words can say.

ด้วยเดชบุญข้าอภิวันท์ พระไตรรัตน์อัน
Duay det boon ka abhivan   Phra trai rat an
May the power of merits of the Triple Gem that are


Udom direk nirat tisai
abundant and prospering, full of excellence and most splendid,

จงช่วยขจัดโพยภัย อันตรายใดใด
Jong chuay grajat poay pai   antarai dai dai
help me to get rid of the array of dangers, each and every one of them –

จงดับและกลับเสื่อมสูญ (กราบ)
Jong dap lae glap seum soon
may they be erased and disappear[38].


[1] Sarapannya is a phonetic transcription of สรภัญญะ , which is from 2 words: สร (sara), which can be read as สะระ or   สอระ , means ‘sound’; and ภัญญะ (pannya) is from ภณ ธาตุ which means broadly the same as พูด (speak, talk), but in this context more specifically สวด (pray).  Hence the term “prayer song.”
[ภัญญะ is not to be confused with ปัญญา, which means ‘wisdom’.]
[2] This musical form is explained in an article by Decha Sikhongmueang at the Faculty of Humanities, Naresuan University: http://www.human.nu.ac.th/thmusic/journal/waikru51/Sorapan.pdf
[4] A monument to Phraya Sri Soonthorn Voharn stands in Chachoengsao, an Eastern province in Thailand.
[5] Formal title: สมเด็จพระบรมโอรสาธิราช เจ้าฟ้ามหาวชิราวุธ สยามมกุฎราชกุมาร
[6] An example of discussion for some of the more widely heard chants is: http://www.thailandqa.com/forum/showthread.php?32134-Chanting-Pali-Thai-English-and-translation
[8] Ong dai literally means “any body”, so here we are paying respects to The Buddha who ......  it is to that Buddha that we pay respects.  Stylistically each line is adding a qualification: [That Buddha] who … who …] and we don’t therefore include a comma before who.  For a more natural-sounding rendering in English we can simplify and then compile each line more as a list of attributes without repeating “who”, but it loses something as the original formula is a specification of qualities that we look for rather than a description of a Buddha [who happens to have these qualities].
We may refer to Buddha (singular) or Buddhas (plural).  Either will make sense. 
[9] This spelling (เกลศ) follows that given in the Thai dictionary of the Royal Thai Institute, 2542.  It is the Thai transcription of the Pali kilesa. [source: royin.go.th]
[10] This is short for บมิ a poetic form meaning “not”.
[11] In the Middle Way meditation inner bodies bloom from within, as described by Kapilavaddho Bhikkhu in Life as a Siamese Monk, “Again my mind turned to the pinpoint of light and from it bloomed forth like a flower a figure of the Buddha.
[12] Literally group or band
[13] เกษมสานต์ also means cheerful; given the context we choose ‘peaceful’ (as a sense of deep happiness).
[14] Note how the Thais give this the Phra prefix; this is a Thai variant on Phra nibbarn, which corresponds more directly to the Pali form, nibbāna.
[15] The Five Eyes of the Blessed One: physical eye (mamsacakkhu), angelic eye (dibbacakkhu], the eye of wisdom (paññācakkhu], the Buddha-eye (buddhacakkhu] and, the eye of omniscience (samantacakkhu)
[16] เกล้า can mean head or hair tied up in a bun
[17] Here ชอบ is used as a static verb adjective to describe the following words (สาธร) and has the meaning of the Pali word samma, which means ‘highest’ or ‘most’.
[18] In general, ธร means ทรง ตั้ง รับ วาง and hence สาทร means to take care of.  Normally in this context  ธร mean ธรเต สตฺถุ สาสนํ ทรงไว้ซึ่งคำสอนของพระศาสดา
Dhamma is the part that ensures the Buddha’s teaching is rightly kept.
[20] Dict.Longdo.com gives “ครรไล         [คัน-] ก. ไคล, ไป. (แผลงมาจาก ไคล).
[21] i.e. in shedding the old, the new is revealed (or more literally turned over, like a leaf).
[22] More literally, it has the property of enabling one to go beyond.
[23] โลกอุดร = lokuttara, i.e. the supramundane, the world beyond, the transcendent
[24] This word ข้า has also the meaning of servant or slave, which is indicative of our status in Samsara.
[25] นบ is a poetic term
[26] From the Pali uttamaṅga = the most important part, i.e. = head
[27] Lit. the most important part
[28] means literally “the body of”, but it’s not needed in translation.
[29] This appears to be an abbreviated form of จตุสัจจัง of four truths
[30] Here the word บรรลุ is split by a hyphen, a technique used elsewhere in this song to retain the metrical form.
[31] พระผู้ตรัสไตร means the Buddha who has expounded the Triple Gem.
[32] The Thai literally says not wildly or not impetuously.
[33] พิบูลย์ is an alternative spelling of ไพบูลย์, where ไอ is changed to อิ, hence  ไพ = พิ
[34] เอารส means child
[35] คุณานุคุณ is a คำสมาส, i.e. a compound word (คุณ + อนุคุณ), where คุณ here means virtue, benefit, goodness; and อนุ means a little, so the sense is great and small, or every little bit.
[36] ประดุ is another poetic form – a comparative as, like
[37] รำพัน = a lot more than one can say
[38] A more literal translation would be to “switch off”