Its original, complete title is 大佛頂如來密因修證了義諸菩薩萬行首楞嚴經 (Da foding rulai miyin xiuzheng liaoyi zhupusa wanxing shoulengyan jing), which may be translated as «The Summit of the Great Buddha, The Final Meaning of Verification though Cultivation of the Secret Cause of the Tathagatas, and Shurangama of All Bodhisattvas‘ Ten Thousand Practices Sutra.» It is also know in Traditional Chinese by shorter versions of the title such as 大佛頂首楞嚴經 (Da foding shoulengyan jing) or simply and more commonly 楞嚴經 (Leng yan-jing).
According to tradition, the sutra was translated in 705 by the Indian bhiksu Po-la-mi-ti (often reconstructed as «Paramiti») and others at Chih Chih Monastery, Canton, China, and then polished and edited by Empress Wu Zetian’s recently banished minister Fang Yung.
Its main themes are the worthlessness of the Dharma when unaccompanied by meditational ability (see samadhi) and the importance of moral precepts as a foundation for the Path. Also stressed is the theme of how one effectively combats demonic influences over one’s own mind.
Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, an important figure in Mahayana Buddhism, was one of the major proponents of the Shurangama Sutra, which he commented and used in his instructions on protecting and supporting the Proper Dharma. He said: «In Buddhism all the sutras are very important, but the Shurangama Sutra is even more important. Wherever the Shurangama Sutra is, the Proper Dharma abides in the world. When the Shurangama Sutra is gone, that is a sign of the Dharma Ending Age. In the Extinction of the Dharma Sutra it says that in the Dharma Ending Age, the Shurangama Sutra will become extinct first. Then gradually the other Sutras will also become extinct. The Shurangama Sutra is the true body of the Buddha; the sharira of the Buddha; the stupa of the Buddha. If the Shurangama Sutra is false, then I am willing to fall into the unintermittent hell, stay there forever, and never come back to the world to see all of you.»